Joanna Aizenberg

Joanna Aizenberg

  • Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science and Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
  • Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
  • Director, Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology
  • Core Member, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
  • Leader, Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)
  • Faculty Associate, Harvard University Center for the Environment
  • Participant, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center
  • Participant, Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
  • Faculty Affiliate, BASF Advanced Research Initiative at Harvard


Joanna Aizenberg pursues a broad range of research interests that include biomineralization, biomimetics, self-assembly, crystal engineering, surface chemistry, nanofabrication, biomaterials, biomechanics and biooptics.

She received the B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1981, the M.S. degree in Physical Chemistry in 1984 from Moscow State University, and the Ph.D. degree in Structural Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1996. She then went to Harvard University where she did postdoctoral research with George Whitesides on micro/nanofabrication and near-field optics.

In 1998 Aizenberg joined Bell Labs as a member of the Technical Staff where she has made several pioneering contributions including developing new biomimetic approaches for the synthesis of ordered mineral films with highly controlled shapes and orientations, and discovering unique optical systems formed by organisms (microlenses and optical fibers) that outshine technological analogs, and characterized the associated organic molecules. In 2007 Aizenberg joined the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Professor Aizenberg's research is aimed at understanding some of the basic principles of biomineralization and the economy with which biology solves complex problems in the design of functional inorganic materials. She then uses biological principles as guidance in developing new, bio-inspired synthetic routes and nanofabrication strategies that would lead to advanced materials and devices. Aizenberg is one of the pioneers of this rapidly developing field of biomimetic inorganic materials synthesis.

"In the course of evolution, Nature has developed strategies that endow biological processes with exquisite selectivity and specificity, and produce superior materials and structures," says Aizenberg. "This is wonderfully exemplified in the realm of inorganic materials formation by organisms, so-called 'biomineralization'. Learning from and mastering Nature's concepts not only satisfies humankind's insatiable curiosity for understanding the world around us, but also promises to drive a paradigm shift in modern materials science and technology."

Contact Information

Office:Pierce 229
Office Phone:(617) 495-3558
Lab Name:Aizenberg Biomineralization and Biomimetics Lab
Lab Location:426 and 427 McKay
Lab Phone:(617) 496-8381
Assistant:Marina DiDonato McLaughlin
Assistant Office:Pierce 206B
Assistant Phone:(617) 998-1766
Research Mgr: Veronique Corrdin

Positions & Employment

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • 2007-Present: Faculty Member

Bell Laboratories, Lucent Techologies

  • 1998-2007: Researcher, Nanotechnology Research Department

Harvard University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

  • 1996-1998: Postdoctoral Associate with Professor George M. Whitesides

Brookhaven National Laboratory, National Synchrotron Light Source

  • 1993-1995: Visiting Scientist

Moscow Institute of Geology, Moscow, USSR

  • 1986-199: Researcher

Institute of Mining and Raw Materials, Moscow, USSR 

  • 1984-1985: Chemist

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • Member of the Board of Directors of the Materials Research Society (MRS)
  • Member of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies
  • Member of the Advisory Board of Langmuir and Chemistry of Materials


  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Ronald Breslow Award for the Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, ACS 2008
  • Industrial Innovation Award, American Chemical Society, 2007
  • Outstanding Women Scientists Award, Indiana University, 2006
  • Lucent Chairman’s Award, 2005
  • Pedersen Award Lecture, DuPont, 2005
  • ACS PROGRESS Lectureship Award, University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2004
  • Distinguished Women Scientists Lectureship, University of Texas at Austin, 2003
  • New Investigator Award in Chemistry and Biology of Mineralized Tissues, 2001
  • Arthur K. Doolittle Award of the American Chemical Society (ACS), 1999
  • Award of the Max-Planck Society in Biology and Materials Science, Germany, 1995