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Joanna Aizenberg, Ph.D.

Core Faculty

Joanna is a pioneer in the rapidly developing field of bio-inspired materials science and engineering — a branch of science that uses biological principles as guides in developing advanced, adaptive materials and devices. Her work focuses on understanding the unique architectural principles found in nature that enable living organisms to assemble themselves into structures with high functionality. These principles offer important clues into economical ways of solving complex materials and design problems. In Adaptive Material Technologies, Joanna’s team is experimenting with materials systems that emulate the design principles and versatility of a deep-sea sponge known as Venus’ Flower Basket and of a brittle star that have uniquely evolved highly performing optical fibers and lenses, of a carnivorous Pitcher plant that has an adaptive slippery surface allowing it to catch prey, and of a number of organisms exhibiting sophisticated structural color that has advantages over traditional pigments. Using these principles, she has designed nanostructured materials that repel water droplets before they freeze and are resistant to biofouling, bioinspired periodic photonic structures possessing adaptive color features, dynamic and responsive surfaces that can sense and respond to changes in their environment, transduce different types of energy, and on-demand catch and release biomolecules. Such materials have a variety of potential applications in a number of medical and industrial areas.

Joanna is the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Material Sciences at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology. She is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science; and she is a Fellow of American Physical Society and Materials Research Society. Dr. Aizenberg received numerous awards from the American Chemical Society and Materials Research Society, including Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience, Ronald Breslow Award for the Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, Arthur K. Doolittle Award in Polymeric Materials, ACS Industrial Innovation Award, and was recognized with two R&D 100 Awards for best innovations in 2012 and 2013 for the invention of a novel class of omniphobic materials and watermark ink technologies. In 2015 she received Harvard’s most prestigious Ledlie Prize that is awarded for the most valuable contribution to science made by a Harvard scientist. Joanna served on the Board of Directors of the Materials Research Society, the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies, and the Advisory Board of Advanced Materials, Langmuir and Chemistry of Materials. She has authored ~200 publications and holds ~50 patents.

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