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Handelsman BW
Jo Handelsman
Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Healthy Minds, Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Jo is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and a Vilas Research Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology. Her research seeks to understand how microorganisms cooperate with and antagonize each other in communities such as the human and soil microbiomes. Jo collaborates with other members of CHM to understand the effect of the human microbiome on responsiveness to mindfulness practice and the effect of mindfulness on the microbiome’s structure and function.

In her pursuit of the secrets of microbial communities, Jo pioneered the field of functional metagenomics. Her lab also discovers new antibiotics produced by soil bacteria and studies the role of antibiotics as signals in microbial communities. Jo’s lab has consistently integrated other fields of science into microbiology, generating transformative collaborations with chemists and statisticians.

In addition to her work in microbiology, Jo has long been a leader in reform in STEM education, advocating for and training others in evidence-based teaching, a field she and collaborator Sarah Miller named “scientific teaching.” Her teaching reform focuses on the use of active learning methods and creating classrooms that include all students. In collaboration with Dr. Chris Pfund, Jo developed a program to train mentors in effective, inclusive mentoring. In recognition of her contributions to teaching and mentoring, Handelsman received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama in 2011. Jo also spent three years as a science policy advisor to President Obama before returning to UW-Madison to direct the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.


Ph.D., Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984)


Related Studies

View Of A Buddhist Monastery

Examining Individual Differences in Contemplative Practice Response

This study seeks to build upon knowledge from Tibetan medicine through examining well-being data and microbiome measures on a variety of people with varying levels of meditation training who have participated in previous intervention studies to gain a better understanding of what works for whom and why.