McCormick Alumnus Appointed Director of New University of Chicago Institute

Matthew Tirrell, McCormick alumnus and chair of the bioengineering department at the University of California at Berkeley, was recently appointed as the founding Pritzker Director of the University of Chicago’s new Institute for Molecular Engineering.

According to the University, the Institute, created in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, will explore innovative technologies that address fundamental societal problems through modern advances in nanoscale manipulation and the ability to design at a molecular scale.

Tirrell received his BS in chemical engineering from Northwestern University in 1973 and received his PhD in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts in 1977. From 1977 to 1999 he was on the faculty of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota before becoming dean of engineering at University of California Santa Barbara.

“I’m pleased that Matt, who is both a McCormick alumnus and a longtime colleague, will be back in the Chicago area,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “We look forward to collaborating with him in his new role.”

Tirrell’s connection with Northwestern will help strengthen the partnership between the University and Argonne National Laboratory. The two institutions have pushed to strengthen their connection in the past several years, including through Department of Energy-funded research centers like the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Research Center (ANSER) and the Non-Equilibrium Energy Research Center (NERC). Northwestern and Argonne partnered in 2010 to offer the first NU/Argonne Early Career Investigator Award, and Argonne researchers also participate as guest lecturers and researchers at Northwestern. 

“The collaboration among Northwestern, University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory is getting stronger by the day,” said Mark Ratner, Dumas University Professor of Chemistry  and of Materials Science and Engineering and co-director of the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, which partners with Argonne in energy research. “Having a creative and powerful presence like Matthew Tirrell in molecular engineering at U of C will help to make this region a major player in the future of molecular sciences and engineering.”