Aizerberg to Deliver the 2023 Wallace H. Coulter Lecture

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Joanna Aizenberg of Harvard University delivered the 2023 Wallace H. Coulter Lecture at Pittcon. The title of her talk was “Venturing into Analytical Chemistry Using Photonic Crystals.” Her presentation introduced a powerful colloidal co-assembly approach that creates porous photonic crystals at a large scale. Using selective functionalization of the doped opals, crystal composition and its optical properties can be locally tunable. The liquid-specific wetting behavior exhibited by the crystals naturally couples to macroscopic color changes. Aizenberg also addressed in her lecture how the macroscopic color changes can be used to develop simple colorimetric indicators for medical applications and novel, machine learning–enabled artificial nose platforms that utilize biometric approaches. The Wallace H. Coulter lecture took place at the Michael Nutter Theater.

Aizenberg received her BS in Chemistry from Moscow State University and her PhD in Structural Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science. After spending close to a decade at Bell Labs, she joined Harvard University as the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology.

Aizerberg’s laboratory focuses primarily at understanding biological architecture and how nature solves complex problems in the design of multifunctional, adaptive materials. Using basic principles of biological architecture as a guide, this knowledge is then applied to develop new synthetic routes and nanofabrication strategies that can lead to technological advances in devices used in various applications, such as biometrics, energy, and medicine.


Aizerberg has been elected to various societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society and an external member of the Max Planck Society. Aizenberg’s select awards include the MRS Medal, the Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Leader Award, the Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience,the Ronald Breslow Award for the Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, and Harvard’s Ledlie Prize for the most valuable contribution to science. She has more than 280 publications and 90 issued patents, and she is a founder of four start-up companies.

The lecture was followed by the Pittcon Welcome Reception.