Anonymous gifts support new professorships in Institute for Molecular Engineering

The University of Chicago has created four named professorships for its new Institute for Molecular Engineering, building momentum behind the new academic program.

Funding for the new professorships will come from two separate, anonymous donations. An international search is under way for leading researchers in molecular engineering to join the institute’s faculty with the new named professorships.

“The University of Chicago has made a major commitment to create the Institute for Molecular Engineering,” said University President Robert J. Zimmer. “We are grateful for the philanthropic leadership shown by these generous investments in molecular engineering, which will be essential in enabling the University to recruit outstanding faculty leaders who will build ground-breaking programs of research and education.”

The donations will allow the University to recruit four senior scholars who will be cornerstones of the institute’s founding faculty, said Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum.

“We are seeking preeminent researchers who will leverage the outstanding science at the University with an ability to create innovative technologies that address some of our society’s most important challenges,” Rosenbaum said. “The new appointments will shape the emerging field of molecular engineering for years to come.”

Molecular engineering is an area of study that relies on new ways of designing, manipulating and fabricating molecular structures to develop new technologies. The institute, created in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, will have the potential to deliver fundamental advances in basic science, as well as findings that address pressing societal problems, ranging from energy supply and human health to clean water production and quantum computing.

“The big job in front of us is to bring together people with expertise in broadly applicable areas of enabling technology, such as synthesis of new materials, biological engineering, new ways of doing computing and quantum information science,” said Matthew Tirrell, who on July 1 became the founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering and senior scientist at Argonne. “These chairs will be tremendously important as we start to assemble the institute’s faculty, because they demonstrate the resources and institutional commitment associated with this undertaking. They will help us attract the very best people with whom I will work to determine the course of our new institute.”

Molecular Engineering will have a projected size of 24 faculty members, many of them with joint appointments at Argonne, who will be recruited over the next five to eight years. The institute’s faculty will develop introductory and specialized courses, and later will propose a curriculum in molecular engineering to support an undergraduate major as well as graduate degrees, which will require separate faculty approval.

Construction will begin in September on the William Eckhardt Research Center, which will house the new institute as well as several programs of the Physical Sciences Division.

The announcement comes at a time when UChicago is undertaking an ambitious expansion of its faculty. The new Institute for Molecular Engineering is only one part of faculty growth efforts that cut across the Schools and Divisions of the University at both junior and senior levels.

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Matthew Tirrell, the founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering, discusses his vision for IME (2011)

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