Matthew Tirrell has been reappointed dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), effective July 1, President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee announced Thursday.
Tirrell is the Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor. A pioneering researcher in the fields of biomolecular engineering and nanotechnology, he has led the University’s program in molecular engineering since its inception in 2011. As the Founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering, which became the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering in 2019, he helped establish the first formal engineering program at the University and launch the first school in the nation dedicated to molecular engineering.
Under his leadership, the faculty and student body in molecular engineering have grown to include more than three dozen faculty and hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. Its unique facilities, such as the Pritzker Nanofabrication Laboratory, allow exploration at the frontiers of modern science, helping to build and define the field of molecular engineering.
Tirrell has focused on building the School’s programs in areas such as quantum engineering, immunoengineering, advanced materials, energy storage, and clean global water supply, while expanding to address other fundamental problems and promote new collaborations among leading researchers from diverse science and engineering disciplines.
For example, such connections helped scientists to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by designing innovative “nano-traps” to destroy viruses in the body and fast, hand-held COVID tests; to launch one of the longest quantum testbeds in the nation in conjunction with nearby Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab; and to make breakthroughs in sustainability and clean energy, such as suggesting ways to purify water using solar energy and to convert carbon dioxide into useful fuel.
The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering has also established a unique way to educate students at the undergraduate and graduate levels—immersing them in knowledge and approaches from multiple fields, which equips them to develop holistic, creative solutions to global challenges.
Zimmer said the reappointment is a reflection of Tirrell’s leadership and impact, reinforced by the recommendation of a faculty advisory committee.
“The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering continues to develop innovative research with global significance, and that is a testament to Matt’s leadership and vision,” Zimmer said. “We are confident Matt will continue to advance the University’s eminence in the evolving field of molecular engineering in the years ahead.”
Before joining the University, Tirrell served as the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and as professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He began his academic career at the University of Minnesota, and previously served as dean of engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara for 10 years. He served as Deputy Laboratory Director for Science at Argonne National Laboratory from 2015 to 2018, concurrently with his role as dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.
Tirrell received his BS in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and his PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts.