Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Bacteriology and Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, is the 2008 recipient of the Alice C. Evans Award from the American Society of Microbiology (ASM). This award, which is supported by the Roche Diagnostics Corporation, recognizes contributions toward the full participation and advancement of women in microbiology. It is given in memory of Alice C. Evans, the first woman to be elected president (in 1928) of ASM.
Handelsman earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin, where she joined the faculty in 1985. She was appointed professor at UW in 1995, and became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in 2002.
As a mentor, advocate, and role model, Handelsman has fostered the inclusion, development, and advancement of women in careers in microbiology. She served as co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin, which she founded with Molly Carnes, and is the Director of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching. She cochairs the National Academies Summer Institutes on Undergraduate Teaching in Biology and serves on the National Academies Committee on Women in Academic Science and Engineering.
In her research, Handelsman studies the structure and function of microbial communities and the signals that govern them, through the applications of metagenomics, genetics, and small-molecule chemistry. Areas of emphasis include antibiotic production, microbial diversity, antibiotic resistance, and symbiosis in communities in soil, on plant roots, and in insect guts. She is author on more than 100 peer-reviewed publications related to microbiology, as well as numerous articles on education and women in science.
In 2006, Handelsman was named a Mentor in the Life Sciences by the National Academies and received a Woman of Distinction Award from the YWCA. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
Handelsman was nominated by Diana Downs, a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, who is Professor, Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with Courtney Robinson, graduate student in the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program. The nomination was cosigned by 39 colleagues, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.