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Microfabricated silicon cantilevers with integrated heating elements are powerful tools for manipulation and interrogation at the nanoscale. They can be used for highly localized heating of surfaces and also serve as electrothermal probes such as topography and position sensors. A thorough understanding of the dynamics of these heating elements is essential for an effective design and operation of such devices. In this paper, we present a tractable feedback model that captures the dynamics of these microheaters. The operator model separates the thermal and the electrical response of the microheater into two operators, with a linear dynamic operator mapping the applied electrical power to the heater temperature and a second nonlinear but memoryless operator mapping the heater temperature to the electrical resistance. We present experimental results that show the identification of a write heater used in probe-based thermomechanical data storage and the accurate synthesis of arbitrary temperature profiles. In the application of microheaters as electrothermal probes, the signals being measured are believed to perturb the thermal system. Therefore, an extension of our model is presented to analyze the response to this perturbation. The extended model is used to identify and forecast the performance of electrothermal sensors, such as the read heater in probe-based data storage. Also presented are results on thermal position sensors, in which microheaters are employed as nanoscale position sensors for a MEMS-based microscanner.