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Tullman-Ercek joins chemE faculty

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Tullman-Ercek
Assistant Professor Danielle Tullman-Ercek

On July 1, Assistant Professor Danielle Tullman-Ercek, 30, joined the chemical engineering faculty. She has already recruited her first research group member, 2nd year chemE student Edward Kim, and is setting up her research lab in Lewis Hall.

Tullman-Ercek comes to the Department of Chemical Engineering after completing her postdoctoral appointment in the lab of Chris Voigt at UC San Francisco.

Born in New Hartford, a small town in upstate New York near Utica, Tullman- Ercek grew up in a military family. She moved often as a child, and even lived briefly in Merced, CA, while her father was stationed at Castle Air Force Base. “That was long before anyone thought of putting a UC campus in Merced,” she says.

Tullman-Ercek completed her B.S. in chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and her Ph.D., also in chemE, at the University of Texas at Austin in 2006.

She considers herself a synthetic biologist, someone who uses a modular approach to engineering bacteria and other organisms. “Synthetic biologists are to biotechnology what Henry Ford was to auto manufacturing,” she says. “We are trying to create standardized organisms that can be assembled consistently to produce proteins and biomaterials for medical use, and new enzymes for making biofuels.”

For her dissertation, Tullman-Ercek characterized a pathway for moving folded proteins and complexes across the membrane of E. coli bacteria. As a postdoc, she worked with Salmonella, and along with other members of the Voigt lab, she engineered the bacteria to produce spider silk.

With a civil engineer husband who works in the Bay Area, Tullman-Ercek was drawn to UC Berkeley because of its location, but she adds, “The Berkeley chemE department is unique because it has a strong reputation both for the quality of its research and its devotion to teaching.” She will teach the second semester of ChemE 170, Biochemical Engineering, this spring.