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Longtime former UW professor returns to head Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Longtime former UW professor returns to head Wisconsin Institute for Discovery


A longtime former UW-Madison professor who went on to serve in the White House is returning to campus to run the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Microbiologist Jo Handelsman, a professor at Yale and associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been named director of WID, the university announced on Tuesday.

Handelsman earned her Ph.D. at UW-Madison in 1984 and started teaching in the Department of Plant Pathology in 1985 before becoming chair of the Bacteriology Department in 2007.

She co-founded the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute and founded the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Handelsman back to Madison,” said Marsha Mailick, vice-chancellor for research and graduate education.

“In addition to being a world-class researcher, she is nationally renowned for her impact as a teacher, role model, mentor and as an advocate for women and minorities in science careers,” Mailick said.

The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery is the public side of the public-private hybrid Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery research facility, which opened in 2010.

The private side is called the Morgridge Institute for Research.

Handelsman starts her new job Feb. 1. She will also be honored with a distinguished named chair, the university said.

“I believe WID represents an essential piece of Wisconsin’s future,” Handelsman said. “A showcase for the wonders of science and technology, an intersection for the public and the academic community, and a place for fusion of science and the arts, all of which can unite to fuel Wisconsin’s innovation economy.”

Handelsman will take over for Christopher Bradfield, interim director of WID since July 2015, when former WID director David Krakauer left to head the Santa Fe Institute.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The original misstated the name of the Morgridge Institute for Research.]

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