Nils G. Walter, Dr. Ing., is a Biophysical Chemist and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with courtesy appointments in Biophysics and Biological Chemistry, among others. Research in the Nils Walter Lab focuses on non-coding RNA through the lens of single molecule techniques. He is the Founding Director of the Single Molecule Analysis in real-Time (SMART) Center at Michigan. In addition, Walter is the Founding Co-Director for the University of Michigan Center for RNA Biomedicine whose mission is to enrich the university’s intellectual and training environment around RNA Biomedicine. He is the Co-Director of the Microfluidics in Biomedical Sciences Training Program and an Associate Director for the Michigan Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP).
Education and early life
Nils G. Walter was born in 1966 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He received his “Vordiplom” (B.S.) and “Diploma” (Masters) from the Technical University of Darmstadt after performing research with Hans-Günther Gassenon the physiochemical characterization of a protein dehydrogenase enzyme. He is a Summa cum laude Dr. Ing. (PhD) graduate from the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry where he studied molecular in vitro evolution of DNA and RNA using fluorescence techniques with Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen. For his postdoctoral studies, he turned to RNA enzymes under the guidance of John M. Burke at the University of Vermont.
The Nils Walter Lab studies both non-coding RNA and protein-coding RNAs, and how the former control the gene expression of the latter, using tools from biophysics, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and chemical biology. Most prominently, the lab uses leading-edge single molecule and super-resolution microscopy and single-molecule FRET approaches to probe the diverse functional mechanisms of transcriptional and translational riboswitches, the spliceosome, the RNA silencing and RNA interference machinery, ribozymes, as well as devices from DNA nanotechnology, in vitro and in live cells.
Walter is the author of more than 160 articles and has 4 patents and disclosures of invention, including one on a new diagnostic single molecule counting approach termed SiMREPS. He has been invited to speak at over 180 speaking engagements and is the Principal Investigator of 19 current and past National Institutes of Health research grants and 31 private foundation grants.
He currently serves or has served on numerous editorial boards including Methods, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIRES), Biopolymers and the Journal of Biological Chemistry, as well as being a guest editor for Chemical Reviews, Encyclopedia of Biophysics, and Methods in Enzymology. Walter has received numerous honors including the Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureship of Trinity University, the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, the Imes and Moore Faculty Award, and the Faculty Recognition Award of the University of Michigan. He has been elected an AAAS Fellow. Walter is a member of several professional organizations including the Society of German Chemists (GDCh), German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM), the RNA Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Biophysical Society.
Since 1999, he has trained 31 postdoctoral fellows and over 60 undergraduate students in his laboratory. 26 scientists received their PhD degrees under Walter and many were awarded major fellowships. Students and postdocs from his group have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, national labs, as well as science advocacy, management and education.