December 2022 - BME Blaze: Josephine Wu

Dec 01 2022

In this monthly spotlight, get to know the alumni, students, and scientists of Columbia's Department of Biomedical Engineering. Read what our BME folks are up to, from our labs' latest research to our students' plans for the future, to our teams' innovations, start-ups, and other career successes.

We loved catching up with Columbia BME Ph.D. graduate ('22) Josephine Wu as she told us about her experience at Columbia BME and her exciting plans to change the world.⁣ Read below to get to know Josephine!


Josephine Wu


  • B.S. Bioengineering, Class of 2017, University of California, Berkeley
  • M.S. Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2019, Columbia University
  • M.Phil. Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2020, Columbia University
  • Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2022, Columbia University


Where are you from?

Having moved cross-country four times and spent nearly equal parts of my life on the East and West Coasts, I would describe myself as bicoastal. I was born not far from here in Ridgefield, CT but soon after that we moved to San Diego. I then attended middle and high school in the suburbs of Boston, undergrad in the San Francisco Bay Area, and grad school in New York.


What drew you to the field of Biomedical Engineering?

In an introductory bioengineering course in my sophomore year of college, we were shown an image of the infamous Vacanti mouse with a human ear-like structure on its back. Many of my classmates were disturbed at the sight, but there was nothing more thrilling to me than the idea that we could figure out how to grow body parts in the lab.


What is your current role?

Until very recently, I was a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic’s Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, where I worked on cartilage and bone tissue engineering spanning the macro scale for regenerative medicine to the micro-scale for in vitro modeling. My dissertation, which I successfully defended in June, was entitled “Engineering spatiotemporal cues for directed cartilage formation.” Now I’m staying on in the lab for a few more months to wrap things up, before starting as a postdoc in Professor Daniel Kelly’s lab at Trinity College Dublin this fall.


Why did you choose Columbia BME?

As I began thinking about pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, specifically tissue engineering, I reached out to one of my earliest research mentors (and the first bioengineer I’d ever met) for advice. Claire steered me in Gordana’s direction on account of her pioneering work in the field and, more importantly, her reputation for being a really kind person. Initially, I was nervous about making a 5-year decision essentially based on a 30-minute interaction, but ultimately, I just went with a gut feeling that this was the right place for me. I also took it as a sign that I had Elvis’ song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” stuck in my head on the morning of my interview and for days afterward. The interview weekend boat cruise around Manhattan at night definitely didn’t hurt, either.


What were some of your favorite projects/memories from the program?

I met some of my favorite people through the program, and some of my fondest memories with them include dressing up for EGSC boat cruises (turns out the interview weekend boat cruise was just the first of many), taking the ferry to Governor’s Island for the BME department retreat, watching sunsets from the Frying Pan with blueberry mango sangrias in hand – and for a non-boat-related memory, flying to Paris for a long weekend after passing our qualifying exams.


What was your proudest moment at Columbia?

Seeing our work and my name in the New York Times was absolutely surreal! And in a close second, seeing the same histology used for the Engineering in Medicine Symposium this year, with all the PIs setting their Zoom backgrounds to that image.


Any words of wisdom or tips for prospective BME students?

Definitely take advantage of all the opportunities available to you at Columbia, but balance that with experiencing New York outside of the Columbia bubble. As a grad student, having a full life outside the lab made me a far better (happier and more efficient) scientist in the lab – and having an advisor who shared the same philosophy made all the difference.


What are you excited about?

To move to Dublin, Ireland, and start my postdoc this fall!


As a grad student, having a full life outside the lab made me a far better (happier and more efficient) scientist in the lab

Josephine Wu
Ph.D. '22; Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Trinity College Dublin

Image captions (clockwise from top left)

1. Headshot

2. Some of my labmates came to see me play violin

3. GVN lab outing to Kafana, a Serbian restaurant in the East Village

4. Gordana and I, after my defense

5. Pottery was the pandemic hobby that stuck

6. Post-defense celebration with friends