Jong Hyun Choi wins award to study in Germany

Jong Hyun Choi, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, has been selected to receive a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Choi will spend several months in Germany, researching DNA engineering.


Choi researches programmable structures and advanced materials, especially at the nanoscale with DNA. His lab demonstrated synthetic cells that mimic the behavior of their biological counterparts, and created the first ever nanoscale Hoberman structure out of DNA origami.

He was nominated for the award by Prof. Dr. Friedrich “Fritz” Simmel of the Technical University of Munich. “I had wanted to work with Dr. Simmel for a long time,” said Choi. “In fact, when I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical in Fall 2022, I actually travelled to Munich to work with him. It was there that we heard that I had won the Bessel Award, which was perfect timing!”

The Bessel award is named for German astronomer and mathematician Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation gives about 20 of these awards annually to researchers around the world, which includes €45,000 and the opportunity to spend several months conducting research in Germany. Having spent the fall in Munich, Choi plans to return in summer 2023 to complete his term.

“My work is with DNA nanotechnology,” says Choi. “DNA and cells are like any other mechanical system; the same engineering principles are at work there, whether you’re moving gears and crankshafts or DNA and cells. All my colleagues studying DNA are in physics or chemistry, and I’m one of the few engineers. So we have a lot to learn from each other! That’s how you move the field forward, as a community”

In addition to designing deployable DNA structures (like the Hoberman ring), Choi is looking forward to working on synthetic cells. “Cell membranes are made of biological materials called lipids,” said Choi. “If we can design synthetic membranes, then we can build a platform to study fundamental cell biology and functions. By building something ourselves, we can gain much more understanding of how it works.”

Choi is the third Purdue ME professor to receive an award from the Humboldt Foundation in as many years. Amy Marconnet studied at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in 2021, and Guillermo Paniagua traveled to Technical University of Darmstadt in 2022. “I’m so happy and grateful to receive this award,” said Choi, “and I look forward to making the most out of this opportunity!”


Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

Source: Jong Hyun Choi,, 765-496-3562