Dr. Benjamin Engel

Helmholtz Pioneer Campus (HPC) Principal Investigator

Structural Cell Biology

Academic Career and Research Areas

Benjamin Engel investigates the structural relationships between macromolecules and cellular organelles. He is investigating how macromolecules control molecular functions and how macromolecules form and model organelles. To answer these questions, Dr. Engel's group uses cryo electron tomography to directly visualize molecular complexes within the cellular environment "in situ". They investigate numerous aspects of cell biology, but are increasingly focusing on photosynthesis. They investigate how cell architecture regulates light harvesting and carbon fixation, and show how these processes are affected by changing environmental conditions.

Benjamin Engel (born 1981) studied molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco, under Prof. Wallace Marshall and used genetic engineering and light microscopy to study array length control. For his postdoctoral research he moved to Munich to develop cryo-electronography with Prof. Wolfgang Baumeister at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. In 2019 he joined the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus of Helmholtz Zentrum München as a Principal Investigator.


    • DFG Grant FOR2092: Biogenesis of Thylakoid Membranes (2017)
    • MPI Biochemistry Junior Research Award (2015)
    • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2011)

    Wietrzynski W, Schaffer M, Tegunov D, Albert S, Kanazawa A, Plitzko JM, Baumeister W, Engel BD: “Charting the native architecture of Chlamydomonas thylakoid membranes with single-molecule precision”. eLife. 2020; 9: e53740.


    Albert S, Wietrzynski W, Lee CW, Schaffer M, Beck F, Schuller JM, Salomé PA, Plitzko JM, Baumeister W, Engel BD: “Direct visualization of degradation microcompartments at the ER membrane”. PNAS. 2020; 117: 1069-1080.


    Rast A, Schaffer M, Albert S, Wan W, Pfeffer S, Beck F, Plitzko JM, Nickelsen J, Engel BD: “Biogenic regions of cyanobacterial thylakoids form contact sites with the plasma membrane”. Nature Plants. 2019; 5: 436-446.


    Albert S, Schaffer M, Beck F, Mosalaganti S, Asano S, Thomas HF, Plitzko JM, Beck M, Baumeister W, Engel BD: “Proteasomes tether to two distinct sites at the nuclear pore complex”. PNAS. 2017; 114: 13726-13731.


    Freeman Rosenzweig ES, Xu B, Kuhn Cuellar L, Martinez-Sanchez A, Schaffer M, Strauss M, Cartwright HN, Ronceray P, Plitzko JM, Förster F, Wingreen NS, Engel BD, Mackinder LCM, Jonikas MC: “The Eukaryotic CO2-Concentrating Organelle Is Liquid-like and Exhibits Dynamic Reorganization”. Cell. 2017; 171: 148-162.e19.