Jonathan R. Russell

Hertz Fellow: Jonathan R. Russell

Harvard University

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2012 - present

Jonathan (Jon) Russell is in the PhD program in biochemistry at Harvard University. Jon studies microbes with the idea that microbial biofilms could serve as inspiration for novel functional biomaterials. Specifically, Jon is working in the Richard Losick lab, investigating redox sensitive matrix production as well as functional amyloids produced by the gram-positive bacteria Bacillus subtilis. He is broadly interested in how living systems make materials and the evolution of biology’s “bottom up” approach of biomaterials synthesis, where components self-assemble into complex supramolecular architectures.

Jon received his BS, with distinction, in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 2011. He studied as a Beckman Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Scott Strobel to characterize the activity of endophytic fungi (endophytes) isolated from rainforest plant samples. Specifically, Jonathan was interested in discovering microorganisms with the capacity to degrade synthetic carbon polymers. To do so, he invented a simple method that allowed for high-throughput screening of endophytes for polystyrene biodegradation activity. He also isolated and characterized an enzyme responsible for the biodegradation of polyurethane.