Katia Bertoldi, assistant professor of applied mechanics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The honor is considered one of the most prestigious for up-and-coming researchers in science and engineering.

Bertoldi’s research involves the use of continuum mechanics and applied mathematics to model the mechanical behavior of novel materials at the small scale, such as nano-composites and biological composites.

The $400,000 CAREER Award (“BuckliOrigami: Soft, Active and Foldable Structures Through Instabilities and Large Deformation”) will support her research in exploiting the non-linear behavior of soft structures with purposeful design patterns to create a new class of responsive origami-like materials.

Possible and exciting applications include reversible encapsulation systems, active materials for on-demand drug delivery, rapidly expandable shelters, and robots that can squeeze themselves through small openings and into tight places.

Bertoldi plans to use the grant to promote interdisciplinary research and teaching and to increase the interactions between mechanicians, engineers, physicists, and materials scientists.

Prior to her appointment at Harvard, Bertoldi was an assistant professor at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

She earned a Ph.D. in mechanics of materials and structures from the University of Trento in Italy; an international master’s in structural engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden; and a Laurea Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Trento.