Q&A with Michael Schnieders

Michael Schnieders is a faculty member in Biomedical Engineering and a researcher at the Center for Computer-Aided Design. He joined the faculty in 2012 and was recently promoted to associate professor with tenure. Read on to learn more about him and his research.

Q: What do you do at the University?

A: My lab is interested in developing new approaches to diagnose disease and design novel therapeutics using atomic resolution computational models of proteins and nucleic acids. For example, when physicians discover a relatively rare genetic variation in one of their patients (i.e., DNA features that are observed in less than 1% of the human population), physics-based simulations can test the effect of that change on protein structure and function. If the genetic change alters protein behavior significantly, this provides evidence that the genetic variation is playing a role in the disease. Overall, computer modeling is emerging as a complementary tool relative to more time-consuming and expensive experimental approaches to understanding genetic variations that cause deafness, kidney disease, cancer, or blindness. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?

A: The most satisfying parts of my work are collaborative interactions with colleagues and students that culminate in the teamwork required for substantive scientific advancements.

Q: Which achievements are you most proud of?

A: Over the past few years, four of my undergraduate students have earned prestigious recognition from the National Science Foundation by being awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. I think this reflects the rigor of their education here at Iowa and how it's translating into their ability to write compelling scientific proposals that are appreciated by anonymous peer reviewers. Their success also reflects the support of the University of Iowa Honors program faculty that includes Art Spisak, Bob Kirby and Kelly Thornburg.

Q: What do you like best about Iowa City?

A: Although I grew up just outside Iowa City in West Branch, I’ve had the opportunity to live in St. Louis, San Francisco, and Austin. Each of these cities has qualities that I appreciated, but overall Iowa City comes out on top due to the combination of its low cost of living, safety, and seasonal variation. I’m fortunate to have a career near my family.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: For the last 20 years I’ve been an avid cyclist and try to ride 4 to 5,000 miles per year. Since joining the faculty at Iowa in 2012, each year I’ve enjoyed taking part in RAGBRAI as part of the Kick-Butts team (where the team name advocated for people to stop smoking). Other rides in Iowa I’ve enjoyed include the Gran Gables series (to raise money for the Iowa wrestling club) and the Courage Ride (to raise money for sarcoma research).

For more information about Professor Schnieders and his research, please visit the following websites: