Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

News

Institute for Molecular Engineering Doubles Size of Faculty with Innovative Researchers

The University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering is adding four prominent senior faculty members who develop advanced technologies that address some of society’s most challenging questions, including cancer bioengineering, water resources, quantum computing and quantum materials, and regenerative medicine.

The University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering is adding four prominent senior faculty members who develop advanced technologies that address some of society’s most challenging questions, including cancer bioengineering, water resources, quantum computing and quantum materials, and regenerative medicine.

The four scholars will join a preeminent group that includes pioneers in the molecular design of materials and new kinds of electronic circuitry. Two of the new faculty members also will hold joint appointments at Argonne National Laboratory, a global leader in computing and materials research and a partner of the Institute for Molecular Engineering. University officials say the addition of so many leaders in the field helps establish the institute as a premier destination for scholars working at the intersection of molecular science and technology.

The new faculty members have helped define their fields of inquiry and between them boast a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” election to the National Academy of Engineering, and Science magazine’s 2010 Breakthrough of the Year.

Giulia Galli, who creates computational methods to design new materials for more efficient energy generation and to simulate the behavior of water, will join the UChicago faculty as of Nov. 1, 2014. Andrew Cleland, who builds nanoscale electronic and mechanical devices that operate at the quantum limit, will join the faculty effective July 1, 2014. Galli and Cleland both also will serve as senior scientists at Argonne.

This image taken by a student working in the laboratory of Melody Swartz won the Nikon Small World contest. It shows lymphatic endothelial cells sprouting from a polymer sphere into a matrix of fibrin, a protein involved in bloodclotting.Image courtesy of Esra GuçAlso joining the faculty July 1, 2014 are Melody Swartz and Jeffrey Hubbell, both of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Swartz, a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, is developing ways to thwart the trickery that cancer cells use to sneak past the immune system. Hubbell, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has spun off three startup companies from his laboratory research, including one devoted to wound-healing and bone-repair products.

Founded in 2011, the Institute for Molecular Engineering is rapidly assembling a group of scientific innovators who focus on designing new technology from the molecular level up, with potentially far-reaching public benefits.

“Giulia, Andrew, Melody and Jeff are all creative leaders in their respective fields,” said Matthew Tirrell, the Pritzker Director of UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering. “They join a stellar team of colleagues who have already joined the IME faculty. Together we are developing ambitious programs in several thematic areas.

“One area is organic and biomaterials, which could potentially lead to the design of new types of electronic and biomedical devices. Another is semiconductor and quantum devices, which will drive the technology of future, improved computer processing capabilities. In several other areas—immune-engineering and cancer, molecular engineering of water resources, and energy storage and harvesting, to name some initial targets, IME is addressing a variety of pressing societal problems.”

The institute expects to grow to a total of at least 25 faculty members within five to seven years. Once at full strength, the faculty collectively will work with more than 200 PhD students, who will be trained in a new approach to engineering research and education, one that emphasizes the development of solutions to the technological problems of society based on molecular-level science.

The William Eckhardt Research Center, now under construction, will house UChicago’s molecular engineers, who will share the building with world-leading cosmologists and astrophysicists.

The newly announced Chicago Innovation Exchange on 53rd Street also will include the institute among its tenants. The CIE will help scholars and entrepreneurs translate their ideas and new technologies into startup businesses and products.

The institute’s developing plans for the exchange include establishing a corporate partnership program as part of its Water Research Initiative, which launched last June in collaboration with researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Argonne. The initiative will apply the latest discoveries in nanotechnology to create new materials and processes for making clean, fresh drinking water more plentiful and less expensive by 2020, as well as technologies for using water more effectively in industry and agriculture.

The institute also has begun accepting student applications for the University’s first engineering PhD. The first directly admitted class will enroll in the 2014 autumn quarter and will comprise students of diverse academic backgrounds in the physical, biological and computational sciences and engineering.