back                   Distinguished Cornell '79 Classmates Honored at the 40th Reunion                    next

Jo Handelsman

Jo is the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), a Vilas Research Professor, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

Prior to returning to UW-Madison in February 2017, she spent 2000–2016 at Yale University where she was the Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and founder of the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching. During 2014-2016, she also served as a science advisor to President Obama as Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). 

Jo has a long history with UW–Madison, having earned her Ph.D. from the university in molecular biology in 1984. She held several positions at UW–Madison’s Department of Plant Pathology -- assistant professor from 1985 to 1991, associate professor from 1991 to 1995, and professor from 1995 to 2007. She became professor and chair of the UW–Madison Bacteriology Department in 2007 and served in that role until 2009. She was co-founder of the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at UW–Madison and co-director from 2001 to 2007 and founded the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.

Jo has authored over 200 papers, 30 editorials and 6 books. She is responsible for groundbreaking studies in microbial communication and work in the field of metagenomics. She was editor-in-chief of the academic journal DNA and Cell Biology.

She is also nationally recognized for her work on understanding implicit biases that shape scientist attitudes and their behaviors towards other people. Her book Entering Mentoring: A Seminar to Train a New Generation of Scientists, and associated course, are used by more than 150 U.S. universities. She received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama in 2011, and in 2012, Nature named her one of “ten people who mattered this year” for her research on gender bias in science.