Matthew Tirrell to transition out of role as dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering next year

Matthew Tirrell, dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and Distinguished Service Professor in PME, has announced he plans to transition out of his role as dean on Sept. 1, 2023.  

“Matt has been a visionary leader, recruiting and enabling a generation of University of Chicago faculty as they have shaped and defined the new field of molecular engineering,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “I am thankful to him for his deep commitment to the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and for his many impactful contributions to the University of Chicago.”

Tirrell has led the University’s molecular engineering program since its inception in 2011, first as the Founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering. In 2019, PME became the first school in the nation dedicated to the field. Tirrell built the PME faculty, comprising 33 primary appointments and 10 secondary appointments, organized into three engineering research themes: immunoengineering, quantum engineering, and materials for sustainability and health, as well as a theme in arts, science, and technology.

Under Tirrell’s leadership, more than a dozen multi-investigator research collaborations have been founded with PME as the leader or a central participant. Among these are the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design, the Chicago Quantum Exchange and the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center. He has played a significant role in increasing cooperation between the University and Argonne National Laboratory, where he is a senior scientist, has a Department of Energy-funded project, and has served as Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology. He also helped PME develop numerous productive international relationships, including with Ben-Gurion University (Israel), Humboldt University (Germany), Zhejiang University (China) and Tohoku University (Japan).

The PME student body has grown significantly under Tirrell’s leadership to nearly 300 Ph.D. students and approximately 40 undergraduate classes per year, and about 140 postdoctoral researchers. PME’s postdoctoral group has produced faculty members now appointed at top research institutions. Tirrell spearheaded the creation of a unique PME undergraduate engineering curriculum, which teaches engineering fundamentals in a way that transcends disciplines and allows specialization in seven areas of PME expertise.

Tirrell has maintained an active research program throughout his tenure as dean, a period that included, among other recognitions, election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. During his time as dean, he mentored 15 postdoctoral researchers and 10 Ph.D. students. He will continue to pursue his research, which focuses on polyelectrolytes and biomedical nanoparticles, following his time as dean.

“The chance to create a new school of engineering from scratch is very rare,” Tirrell said. “I am grateful to the University of Chicago for giving me this opportunity, and to the faculty, staff and students who have joined in this adventure. We are clearly showing that an engineering research and education program based on addressing technological solutions for issues of importance to society is a successful, novel approach.”

Information about the search for the next dean of the PME will be forthcoming.