David Engelke, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Biological Chemistry


Professor Engelke received his B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1974 and his Ph.D. degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1979. He joined the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor in 1983, and was promoted to associate professor in 1989, and professor in 1996. He retired from active faculty status in 2015.

An exceptional scientist, teacher, and leader, Professor Engelke has received international acclaim for his pioneering research on the biosynthesis of small RNAs and his contributions in the area of gene silencing and pre-tRNA processing by RNase P. By demonstrating that both the widely scattered tRNA genes and the tRNA processing pathway reside in the sub-compartment of the cell nucleus (the nucleolus), Professor Engelke has suggested an entirely new paradigm by which both tRNA expression and maturation may be inextricably linked and regulated in parallel, via their cellular geography. More recently, he and his colleagues have devised an elegant mechanism to drive siRNA expression with RNA polymerase III and demonstrated the efficacy of this approach in human cells.

Professor Engelke held several key administrative positions, including founding director of the Program in Biomedical Sciences (1998–2007), assistant dean for graduate and postdoctoral studies in the Medical School (2000–07), associate dean for academic programs and initiatives in the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies (2008–12), founding director of the Michigan Post-Baccalaureate Education Program (2009–10), and interim chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry (2013–15). He was awarded multiple honors from the University of Michigan, including the Faculty Recognition Award (1993), the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award (2003), and the Rackham Graduate School Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award (2007).