Carnegie Mellon University

Kathryn Whitehead

Dr. Kathryn A. Whitehead

Professor, Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering

  • Doherty Hall A205
Doherty Hall A205
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


  • H.B.Ch.E., University of Delaware, 2002

  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2007

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT, 2008 - 2012


Professor Whitehead joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2012. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2002 and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2007. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Samir Mitragotri, Professor Whitehead developed systems for the oral delivery of macromolecules. From 2008 - 2012, she trained as a postdoc with Bob Langer in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. There, she developed biomaterials and methodologies for the advancement of RNA interference therapeutics. Professor Whitehead is a native Pennsylvanian, having grown up in Allentown.


The research interests of the Whitehead Lab lie at the interface of chemical engineering, molecular biology, and medicine. Our ultimate goal is to engineer safe and effective drug delivery systems capable of achieving therapeutic outcomes in biological models and, ultimately, in humans. As a first step, the Whitehead Lab is interested in developing a fundamental understanding of the relationship between delivery barrier biology and drug transport. To accomplish this, we are employing RNA interference, a biological phenomenon that induces gene silencing in the presence of siRNA. Through the identification of cellular components essential to the drug transport process, we are able to design delivery systems using modern chemical techniques to overcome or cooperate with those components. Specifically, we are interested in the development of delivery systems for the nucleus, the intestinal epithelium, and various leukocytes, including B lymphoma cells. 

Research Interests: drug delivery; personalized medicine; bionanotechnology


Awards and Recognition

  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)
  • DARPA Young Faculty Award, 2016
  • CMBE Young Innovator Award, 2016
  • Named as one of the Brilliant Ten by Popular Science, 2015
  • MIT Tech Review Innovator Under 35, 2014