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Katia Bertoldi and Ting Wu Join The Wyss Institute

Both long-time Wyss collaborators, Bertoldi and Wu are welcomed as the Institute’s newest faculty members

By Lindsay Brownell

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — The Wyss Institute at Harvard University is pleased to announce that Katia Bertoldi, Ph.D. and Ting Wu, Ph.D. have joined its ranks as new Associate Faculty members. “I’m very excited to be a part of the Wyss Institute’s unique intellectual environment,” says Bertoldi, who is the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “My students and postdocs will greatly benefit from being part of this community, particularly the interchange of ideas across different platforms and fields.” Wu, who is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, says, “I have already been collaborating closely with several Wyss researchers on a number of projects, and am looking forward to seeing what new avenues can now be forged.”

Katia Bertoldi and Ting Wu Join The Wyss Institute
Katia Bertoldi, Ph.D. Credit: Eliza Grinnell

Bertoldi earned degrees in Italy and Sweden, completed her postdoctoral training at MIT, and served as an Assistant Professor in the Netherlands before landing at SEAS in 2010 to establish a group studying the mechanics of materials and structures. Her work has a particular focus on harnessing instabilities and strong geometric non-linearities to generate structures that have new modes of functionality (folding, for example), regardless of the materials out of which they are made. These so-called “reconfigurable materials” can be “tuned” to move in highly specific ways that are determined by their structural patterns.

Bertoldi is no stranger to the Wyss Institute, having collaborated with faculty members Joanna Aizenberg, Jennifer Lewis, Conor Walsh, Rob Wood, and George Whitesides on projects for the last seven years. “It turns out that figuring out how structures can deform, fold, interact with light, and absorb energy has applications in a variety of fields, and it’s been exciting to see our lab’s work contribute to such a diverse array of advances,” Bertoldi says. Fittingly, her lab is joining both the Wyss Institute’s Adaptive Material Technologies and Bioinspired Robotics focus areas. She has also collaborated with artist and Wyss Associate Faculty member Chuck Hoberman, inventor of the famous “Hoberman sphere” kinetic structures and toys.

Katia Bertoldi and Ting Wu Join The Wyss Institute
Ting Wu, Ph.D. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Wu completed both her B.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University, then returned to become a Professor in 1993 following stints at Stanford Medical School, Yale University, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her lab studies show how chromosome behavior and positioning influence genome function and evolution, and develops technologies for visualizing chromosomes and their organization within the nucleus – most recently at super-resolution. She is one of very few researchers who have won an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award as well as an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, and is also a co-investigator on a Center of Excellence Award, all of which recognize her high risk/high reward work. “The two newest projects in the lab address how human chromosomes fold and how the presence of a homologous chromosome might influence that folding. Both of these projects will be bolstered by the great work being done here at the Wyss,” says Wu.

Wu has already worked with Wyss faculty on a variety of projects: as co-author of a paper describing the use of Oligopaint DNA FISH for imaging the genome at super-resolution with Peng Yin and William Shih; as a co-investigator on a grant with George Church and Jennifer Lewis; and as a member of the “Genome-Project Write” initiative with Pam Silver and George Church. She is also Director of the Consortium for Space Genetics, which brings together efforts to explore the intersection of genetic technologies and space travel, and Director of the Personal Genetics Education Project, which promotes public awareness and dialogue about genetics through Congressional briefings, online curricula and lesson plans, professional development for teachers, consulting work for producers and writers of television and film, and partnerships with communities of faith.

“We are excited to welcome Katia and Ting to the Wyss Institute as faculty members whose work truly embodies the spirit of collaboration and creativity that we seek to nurture in our community,” says the Wyss Institute’s Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at HMS and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.

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