James Mason Crafts Professor
Professor of Biological Engineering
Ph.D. 1997, University of California, Santa Barbara
"We seek to understand and harness nature’s own processes in order to design technologically important materials and devices for energy, the environment, and medicine. Ancient organisms have evolved to make exquisite nanostructures like shells and glassy diatoms. Using directed evolution, we are engineering organisms to grow and assemble novel hybrid organic-inorganic electronic and magnetic materials. In doing so, we have capitalized on many of the wonderful properties of biology–using only non-toxic materials, employing self-repair mechanisms, self-assembling precisely and over longer ranges, and adapting and evolving to become better over time. These materials have been used in applications as varied as solar cells, batteries, medical diagnostics and basic single molecule interactions related to disease."
Dr. Belcher is a material scientist, biological engineer, and professor at MIT. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she received her Bachelor's degree from the College of Creative Studies in 1991 and her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1997. Dr. Belcher was awarded the 24th annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the 2004 Four Star General Recognition Award. In 2006 she was named Scientific American’s Research Leader of the Year. Her work has been published in many prestigious scientific journals including Science and Nature, and has been reported in the popular press including Fortune, Forbes, Discover, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
"Ordering of Quantum Dots Using Genetically Engineered Viruses," Science 296 (5569) 892–895 2002 (with others).
"Selection of Peptides with Semiconductor Binding Specificity for Directed Nanocrystal Assembly," Nature 405 (6787) 665–668, 2000 (with others).
"Molecular Mechanistic Origin of the Toughness of Natural Adhesives, Fibers and Composites," Nature 399 (6738) 761–763, 1999 (with others).
"First Steps in Harnessing the Potential of Biomineralization as a Route to High-Performance Composite Materials," Acta Metal. Mater., 23, 46 (3) 733-736, 1998 (with others).
Listen to Prof. Belcher's podcast on Green Nanotechnology. Professor Belcher was one of the speakers for Technology Day 2005: Bioengineering at MIT: Building Bridges Between the Sciences, Engineering and Health Care (Part One). See MIT World for her talk and more about the day's events. The Fall 2005 Spectrum reported her use of viruses to assist in fabricating nanostructures.
Professor Belcher will lead the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies; the MIT News Office, the November 2003 issue of Materials Today, and the February 2004 Technology Review have further details. Tech Talk reported on seven MIT women who have been named "Top Scientists" in 2002; Professor Belcher has been named one of Popular Science magazine's "PopSci Brilliant 10." Her research was recently mentioned in Technology Insider, The MIT Report, Technology Review, and the February 12, 2004 issue of The New York Times.