Alumni and Industry Day Speakers

September 17, 2021
Johnny Alfaro-Perez, PhD’17

Johnny Alfaro-Perez, PhD’17

Manufacturing technology scientist/engineer–lyophilization specialist at International Flavors & Fragrances

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Johnny Alfaro-Perez, PhD’17, works at IFF’s Madison, Wisconsin, site as a manufacturing technology scientist/engineer–lyophilization specialist. Among other functions in this role, he executes scale-up and continuous improvement projects to commercialize new probiotics products during the freeze-drying operation, as well as characterization and validation of downstream processes. These processes include milling, blending, and packaging. He holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. In addition, he leads the Madison site’s Ergonomics Team and serves on the Planning Committee for the Women@IFF’s Network–Madison Chapter. He also represents the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) on the UChicago Alumni Board.

Alfaro-Perez obtained a bachelor of science in chemical engineering as well as a bachelor of music in voice performance from the University of Costa Rica. Prior to his move to Chicago for graduate education, he was appointed lecturer and researcher in chemical engineering, where he was studying chemical modification of tropical hardwoods. During his tenure at the Pritzker Molecular Engineering, under the supervision of Prof. Juan de Pablo, he developed novel freeze-drying models and cycles to preserve biological materials for long-term storage. This line of work led to a patent application for the use of nanoparticles as preserving agents in biomaterials. Outside of the lab, he served as a student ambassador for PME, participated in a partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry on science communication with high school students, and volunteered as a STEM tutor for local students. Alfaro-Perez was also appointed as a Chicago Center for Teaching Fellow to support and foster active learning teaching skills within PME, the Physical Sciences Division, and the Biological Sciences Division.

Chibueze Amanchukwu

Chibueze Amanchukwu

Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Prof. Chibueze Amanchukwu and his lab have a mission to creatively solve energy-related challenges, especially focused on energy storage and electrocatalysis. Within energy storage and electrocatalytic devices, electrolytes are a vital component that support ionic and molecular transport. Their research targets the design and synthesis of novel electrolyte media (solid-state and liquid), and the study of electrolyte instability and ionic transport phenomena for applications in batteries and electrocatalysis.

Prior to joining the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), Amanchukwu was a postdoctoral fellow with Zhenan Bao at Stanford University, where he developed new small molecule electrolytes that decoupled ionic conductivity from electrochemical instability for lithium metal batteries. His postdoctoral work was supported by the TomKat Center Postdoctoral Fellowship in Sustainable Energy at Stanford. As a chemical engineering PhD student at MIT with Paula Hammond, Amanchukwu elucidated polymer degradation mechanisms and tuned polymer electrolyte behavior in lithium-air batteries. His graduate work was supported by the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, GEM Fellowship, and the Alfred P. Sloan Minority Fellowship. His research has been recognized with awards from the American Chemical Society (Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (Session’s Best Paper).

Jeffrey Bluestone

Jeffrey Bluestone

President and chief executive officer of Sonoma Biotherapeutics and the A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor at the Diabetes Center of the University of California, San Francisco

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Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone is the president and CEO of Sonoma Biotherapeutics and the A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Emeritus Professor in the Diabetes Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Bluestone has published more than 500 papers over four decades focused on understanding the basic processes that control T-cell activation and immune tolerance in autoimmunity, organ transplantation, and cancer. His research has led to the development of multiple immunotherapies, including the first medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) targeting T-cell co-stimulation to treat autoimmunity and the first FDA-approved checkpoint inhibitor for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. He is a leading figure in the development of regulatory T cell therapies.

Bluestone has been an academic leader as director of the Ben May Institute at the University of Chicago and the Diabetes Center as well as executive vice chancellor and provost at UCSF. He was the founding director of the Immune Tolerance Network, the largest NIH-funded multi-center clinical immunology research program, testing novel immunotherapies in transplantation, autoimmunity, and asthma/allergy. He recently led the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy as founding CEO and president. He served as a member of the Blue-Ribbon Panel, appointed by then-Vice President Joe Biden, to guide the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Finally, Bluestone has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was a recipient of the Guggenheim, Fogarty, and American Cancer Society Fellowships, and previously served as the Daniel L. Ludwig Professor.

Preeti Chalsani

Preeti Chalsani

Director of industry partnerships at the Chicago Quantum Exchange (joint with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation) and deputy director of Duality

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Preeti Chalsani serves as the deputy director of Duality where she helps set the accelerator’s strategic vision while providing the technology context to the accelerator and build relationships with corporate partners, mentors, quantum startups, partners, and stakeholders. She also serves as the director of industry partnerships for quantum information science in a joint position with the Polsky Center and the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE).

In this role, Preeti seeks to build connections between industry and CQE member research institutions with the goal of advancing the development of quantum information science and enabling technologies. She interfaces with CQE researchers and manages a portfolio of industry partners ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups to build strategic partnerships for research, knowledge and technology transfer, and workforce and ecosystem development. She engages the Polsky Center’s resources and network and the CQE’s technical expertise and talent to spur the creation and growth of new quantum information science ventures.

Prior to taking on this role, Preeti served in the Polsky Center team as assistant director of technology commercialization and associate director of innovation project program design. She worked with UChicago faculty in physical sciences and engineering to support commercialization of their research, including through the formation of new ventures. She also worked on collaborative initiatives with institutions such as Argonne National Lab and the University of Illinois to help grow the innovation ecosystem around UChicago.

Preeti earned a bachelor’s of science in applied physics from Yale University and a PhD in applied physics from Cornell University where her doctoral research was in the area of spintronics. After finishing her graduate studies, Preeti worked as a nanotechnology consultant and postdoctoral researcher at the National Research Council in Canada and then transitioned to a career outside the lab by teaching physics at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada before eventually moving into the field of intellectual property. Preeti worked as a scientific advisor and Patent Agent at several law firms in Canada for almost a decade developing patent portfolios for clients including from multinational corporations with mature commercial products as well as universities and startups with emerging early-stage technologies. She has experience working on diverse technologies from automotive and consumer products to software and quantum technologies.

Jerry Chow

Jerry Chow

Director of quantum hardware system development at IBM Quantum, Watson Research Center

David Christle, PhD'16

David Christle, PhD'16

Machine learning engineer at Cash App

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David Christle received in PhD in 2016 in David Awschalom’s lab studying silicon carbide defects for quantum computing. He spent three years at LinkedIn on the Anti-Abuse AI team using machine learning techniques to fight abuse across a 700-million-member platform. He’s currently working as a machine learning engineer on the risk team at Cash App, applying machine learning to account security and cryptocurrencies.

Eun Ji Chung

Eun Ji Chung

Assistant professor of biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and materials science, surgery, and medicine, and the Dr. Karl Jacob Jr. and Karl Jacob III Early Career Chair at the University of Southern California

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Dr. Eun Ji Chung is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California and the Dr. Karl Jacob Jr. and Karl Jacob III Early Career Chair. She has a courtesy appointment in chemical engineering, medicine (nephrology and hypertension), and surgery (vascular surgery and endovascular therapy), and is an affiliated faculty at the Norris Cancer Center and the Stem Cells department. Her laboratory is interested in harnessing molecular design and self-assembly to develop nano- to macroscale biomaterials that can be utilized in medicine.

Chung received her bachelor’s degree with honors in molecular biology from Scripps College, her PhD from the Department of Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University, and her postdoctoral training from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago in Dean Matthew Tirrell’s lab. Chung is a recipient of the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award (2014) and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2, 2018), and was named 35 Under 35 from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2017), Emerging Investigator in Biomaterials Science (2017), Young Innovator in Nanobiotechnology from Nano Research (2018), Emerging Investigator from the Journal of Materials Chemistry B (2019), Young Innovator in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering from BMES (2020), and received the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2021). Chung also received the USC faculty mentoring award for undergraduates (2018) and the USC WiSE Hanna Reisler Mentorship Award (2021), and is an Associate Editor for Bioactive Materials and Frontiers in Digital Health and Health Technologies.

George Crabtree

George Crabtree

Senior scientist and distinguished fellow, and director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) at Argonne National Laboratory

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Dr. George Crabtree directs the overall strategy and goals of the research program and operational plan, acts as liaison to executives of JCESR partner organizations, and represents JCESR with external constituencies and advisory committees.

Crabtree is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a charter member of ISI’s Highly Cited Researchers in Physics, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won numerous awards for his research, including the Kammerlingh Onnes Prize for his work on the physics of vortices in high-temperature superconductors.

Jay Cui, PhD’09, MBA’15

Jay Cui, PhD’09, MBA’15

Principal at Abingworth Management

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After receiving his PhD in chemistry at UChicago, Dr. Jay Cui’s career trajectory included leading a National Institutes of Health P50-funded research center based on the University of Chicago’s campus, completing his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, working as a management consultant for various firms, and now guiding strategic investments in the venture capital world. Prior to his current role, he spent nearly five years at Abbvie Ventures identifying emerging biotechnology companies in oncology, immunology, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Wayne Delker, SB'76

Wayne Delker, SB'76

Advisory council member at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Wayne Delker has spent more than 30 years in business leading innovation organizations and developing innovation processes, capability and culture. He retired in 2015 as senior vice president & chief innovation officer of The Clorox Company, serving as the company’s chief technical and innovation executive. During this time Clorox achieved a record level of growth from innovation and was recognized as an innovation leader.

Prior to joining Clorox, Delker spent 14 years with General Electric in various R&D and engineering roles, concluding with general manager and director of technology for GE Silicones.

More recently, Delker was the executive director of the Fung Institute For Engineering Leadership in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. This role builds on a lifelong passion on how to bring together engineering expertise, innovation skills, and leadership to solve world problems and prepare people for future careers in science and engineering management. Currently, he is a co-leader of the nonprofit start-up VentilatorSOS, whose mission is to modify and supply donated medical equipment to developing countries to help save lives during the COVID pandemic.

He currently serves on the advisory board of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago, the advisory board of the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Board of the Lighthouse Community Public School in Oakland California.

A native of Pennsylvania, Delker holds a BS in chemistry from the University of Chicago and MS, MPhil, and PhD in Chemistry from Columbia University.

Aaron Esser-Kahn

Aaron Esser-Kahn

Associate professor of molecular engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Prof. Esser-Kahn grew up in suburban Detroit. He studied at the California Institute of Technology and The University of California at Berkeley. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He launched his career at the University of Irvine in the Chemistry Department where he worked from 2011 until 2017. Joining the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) in the same year, he has pursued many areas of research.

His primary area of research focuses on immunoengineering and improving immune responses in vaccination. Here, his group works on improving innate immune responses through better understanding immune responses and finding new ways to manipulate and improve responses. His secondary area of research focuses on adaptive materials. Here, his group works on developing materials that mimic the human body in their ability to respond and adapt to an external environment – providing force-mediated adaptation.

Aaron Fluitt, PhD'15

Aaron Fluitt, PhD'15

Senior manager of initiative development at Argonne National Laboratory

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Aaron Fluitt, PhD’15, serves as senior manager of initiative development for Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy and Global Security Directorate. In this role, he leads program development activities for manufacturing science and engineering and for climate and energy action, and develops new science and technology initiatives for high-growth, high-impact areas.

In his previous role at Argonne, Fluitt managed the acquisition of a 5-year, $115 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to create Q-NEXT, a National Quantum Information Science Research Center led by Argonne. Aaron earned his PhD in 2015 from the then-Institute for Molecular Engineering, where his research focused on the physics of protein folding and aggregation. He also holds an MS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BS with highest distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, both in chemical engineering.

Monisha Ghosh

Monisha Ghosh

Research professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, incoming professor of electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and former chief technology officer for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

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Research Prof. Monisha Ghosh completed a term as the chief technology officer at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on June 14, 2021. In this role, she reported to the chairman of the FCC and was closely involved with setting national strategy and technology specifications related to the explosive growth of broadband wireless communications technologies.

Ghosh previously served in the National Science Foundation as a rotating program director (IPA) within the Directorate of Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) where she managed wireless networking research. At the NSF, she initiated one of the first large-scale programs that target applications of machine learning to wireless networks.

As a research professor at the University of Chicago, Ghosh conducts research on wireless technologies for the 5G cellular, next-generation Wi-Fi systems, IoT, coexistence, and spectrum sharing. She previously worked in industrial research and development at Interdigital, Philips Research, and Bell Laboratories on wireless systems such as the HDTV broadcast standard, cable standardization, and cognitive radio for the TV White Spaces.

Antonio Gracias, JD’98

Antonio Gracias, JD’98

Founder, chief executive officer, and chief investment officer at Valor Equity Partners

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Antonio Gracias, JD’98, is chief executive officer and chief investment officer at Valor Equity Partners, a private equity firm he founded in 1995. He currently serves as the director of several Valor portfolio companies, including SpaceX, K Health, Harmony Biosciences and Cloud 9. He is also a member of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) Council and joind the University of Chicago Board of Trustees in May 2021. Gracias received a bachelor’s degree and MSFS in international finance and economics from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and a JD in 1998 from the University of Chicago. He also studied corporate structures and economic development at Waseda University in Tokyo.

David Gross

David Gross

Director of industry relations & strategy at the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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Dave Gross is the director of industry relations & strategy for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. He focuses on building relationships with industry partners on behalf of the Polsky Center and manages a portfolio of strategic projects in the areas of innovation and science.

Prior to moving to Chicago, Dave was the Chief Operating Officer of a commercial construction company in Des Moines, Iowa. He has also worked in real estate strategy for Walgreens and started his career as a business analyst for Target in Minneapolis.

Dave holds an MBA from Duke University and a BA from Northwestern University in Economics and Geography.

Jeffrey Hubbell

Jeffrey Hubbell

Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering and vice dean and executive officer at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Prof. Jeffrey Hubbell is one of the founders of the field of biomaterials and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Medicine. His current research focuses on engineered protein immunotherapies against a host of diseases, and he is particularly active in startup creation to translate these discoveries. A clinical-stage startup, Anokion, is currently developing immunotherapies to treat multiple sclerosis and celiac disease. In addition, his research is the cornerstone of recent startups Arrow Immune, HeioThera, and Phlaxis, as well as exited startups Focal, Inc. and Kuros Biosurgery AG.

Abe Janis

Abe Janis

Principal scientist in technology development at Hollister Incorporated

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Abe Janis has over 20 years of industry R&D and clinical trial experience in regenerative medicine and medical devices. He has been granted over 20 patents and has authored over 80 presentations and manuscripts in a wide range of specialties, including biomaterials, implantology, orthopedics, hemodialysis, wound healing, and ostomy.

Janis was a 2020 TEDMED research scholar and has served as a mentor at MATTER since 2016. He is a new visiting assistant professor in the Graduate College at Rush University, leading a course in biomedical entrepreneurship. Abe is currently a principal scientist in technology development at Hollister Incorporated in Libertyville, IL, where he studies peristomal skin biology, leads the futurism team, and builds collaborations with universities and accelerators. He has served as an industry mentor for capstones at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) since 2019.

Yu Kambe, PhD'19

Yu Kambe, PhD'19

CEO and co-founder of NanoPattern Technologies, Inc.

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Yu Kambe is the CEO and co-founder of NanoPattern Technologies, a spinout of a technology developed through Prof. Dmitri Talapin’s laboratory. The company is commercializing a photopatternable quantum dot downconverter ink for optoelectronics applications. Kambe received his PhD from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) in 2019 under the mentorship of Prof. Paul Nealey.

Joshua Lequieu, PhD’17

Joshua Lequieu, PhD’17

Assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Drexel University

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Joshua Lequieu is an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Drexel University. He received a BS in chemical engineering from Cornell University and a PhD in molecular engineering from the University of Chicago under the guidance of Prof. Juan de Pablo. Following a postdoc in the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara with Glenn H. Fredrickson, he joined Drexel University in 2020. His research interests are in theory and simulation of polymeric materials and on biophysical processes involving chromatin and DNA.

Chong Liu

Chong Liu

Assistant professor of molecular engineering

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Prior to joining the PME in 2018, Prof. Chong Liu was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. Liu received her PhD in materials science and engineering at Stanford University in 2015 and her BS in chemistry from Fudan University. Liu Group’s research focuses on design and synthesis of materials as well as development of electrochemical and optical tools to address the challenges in water-energy nexus. Areas include resource extraction from water systems, separation in liquid and gas phases, and catalysis.

Felix P. Lu

Felix P. Lu

Director of corporate engagement at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Felix Lu promotes the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago among current and potential industry partners by understanding current industry challenges, priorities, and needs, and then connecting the needs to the appropriate university resources. By serving as an industry liaison for academic resources, he makes it easier for companies to interact fruitfully with Pritzker Molecular Engineering and the University of Chicago.

Jasmina Marjanovic, PhD’10

Jasmina Marjanovic, PhD’10

Director at Abbvie Ventures

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Dr. Jasmina Marjanovic, PhD’10, completed her PhD in chemistry at UChicago and a postdoc at Harvard before rising up the ranks at Abbvie to her current role as a director at Abbvie Ventures. With experience as a senior scientist, and then helping lead pharmacovigilance and patient safety, as well as search and evaluation for Abbvie, Marjanovic has unique expertise spanning the bench-to-bedside process, as well as the spectrum of internal to external innovation, which is particularly important for the success of major pharmaceutical companies today.

Siqi Meng, PhD’21

Siqi Meng, PhD’21

Research chemist at PPG Industries

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Siqi Meng, PhD’21, is a research chemist at PPG, where she works with adhesives and sealants. She joined the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) PhD program in 2017 to study polyelectrolyte complexes with Dean Matthew Tirrell, and graduated in 2021. Before that, she received her BS degree in chemical engineering from Rice University.

Brittany Moser, PhD’19

Brittany Moser, PhD’19

Postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco

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Brittany Moser, PhD’19, conducted research in atmospheric chemistry with Prof. Paul Shepson at Purdue University. After she graduated in 2012, she worked with Prof. Mikhail Shapiro designing gene circuits to probe neuronal function. As an NSF graduate research fellow (2015-2020), Brittany worked in Prof. Aaron Esser-Kahn’s lab and studied the innate immune system on the single-cell level through a variety of light-based tools. After completing her PhD in 2019 at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), Brittany became a postdoctoral scholar in the Gartner Lab at UCSF.

Cathryn Nagler

Cathryn Nagler

Bunning Family Professor in the Department of Pathology, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the College

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Prof. Cathryn Nagler’s research interests encompass the mechanisms governing tolerance to dietary antigens and the ability of intestinal bacteria to regulate susceptibility to allergic responses to food. She received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Leadership in Program Innovation in 2017 and was elected a distinguished fellow of the American Association of Immunologists in 2020. Beyond the lab bench, she is developing microbiome-modulating therapeutics to treat food allergies via her startup ClostraBio.

Laura Niklason, PhD'88

Laura Niklason, PhD'88

Nicholas Greene Professor of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering at Yale University; and founder, president, and CEO of Humacyte, Inc.

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Dr. Laura Niklason, PhD’88, is the founder of Humacyte and has served as president and chief executive officer since November 2020 and as a member of the Humacyte Board since 2004, and has served in a senior scientist capacity from 2005 through 2020. Niklason has served as an adjunct professor at Yale University since November 2020 and previously served as the Nicholas M. Greene Professor of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering at Yale University from 2006 to November 2020. She was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2014 and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering in 2015 and 2020, respectively. Niklason is currently on the board of directors of Self Study Inc., a private learning optimization technology company. Niklason holds a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Chicago and an MD from the University of Michigan. Niklason completed her residency training in anesthesia and intensive care unit medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and completed postdoctoral scientific training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Niklason has been a member of Humacyte’s Board since the Company’s founding. Niklason also serves as the chair of the PME Advisory Council.

Dimitris Priftis

Dimitris Priftis

Senior manufacturing and process engineer at Blue Origin

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Dr. Dimitris Priftis is currently a senior manufacturing and process engineer at Blue Origin, leading efforts around coating development and implementation for the New Glenn rocket program. Before joining Blue Origin, Priftis was at the Boeing Research and Development center where, as a technical lead engineer, he was managing a portfolio of polymer coating-related projects. Dr. Priftis has an MS and a PhD in polymer science from the University of Athens in Greece and postdoctoral experience from the University of California, Berkeley and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago. Priftis is also an adjunct professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Clemson University.

Matthew  Rakher

Matthew Rakher

Senior scientist at HRL Laboratories

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Matthew T. Rakher is a senior scientist and program manager at HRL Laboratories where he investigates spin qubits in silicon among other projects in optics and atomic physics. He received his PhD in physics from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2008 where he studied quantum optics in semiconductors. Subsequently, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland and a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Union at the University of Basel in Switzerland. His research interests include experimental quantum optics and quantum information science with nanofabricated semiconductor devices and atomic systems.

Daniel Reid, PhD'18

Daniel Reid, PhD'18

Software engineer at Google

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Daniel Reid, PhD’18, received his doctorate from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) in 2018 under the guidance of Prof. Juan de Pablo. He joined the PME from Oregon State University where he completed a BS in chemical engineering, graduating magna cum laude. Upon graduation from the PME, he joined Applied Materials, a leader in materials engineering solutions used to produce chips and advanced displays, in the role of computational engineer. Daniel is currently a software engineer at Google with a focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Samantha Riesenfeld

Samantha Riesenfeld

Assistant professor of molecular engineering and genetic medicine at the University of Chicago

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Since 2019, Prof. Samantha Riesenfeld has been working at the interface of machine learning, genomics, and systems immunology. Immune responses can often come down to how a single cell among millions can set off a cascade, and Riesenfeld specializes in finding that needle from haystacks of noise. This allowed her to contribute towards identifying novel roles for rare immune cells in allergic responses. Today, her research is focused on merging the immense and rich data from imaging, genomics, and transcriptomics to yield more accurate cancer diagnoses. She recently received the Young Investigator Award from the Cancer Research Foundation.

Paulina Rincon Delgadillo, PhD’14

Paulina Rincon Delgadillo, PhD’14

Senior researcher at imec

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Paulina Rincon Delgadillo, PhD’14, is currently a senior researcher at IMEC. She is responsible for contacts related to the DSA activities within Lithography Program with partner companies (material and tool suppliers as well as end-users) and academia on technical and organizational levels.

Prior to this, Delgadillo was a development engineer at Hilasal Mexicana where she worked on formulation and process design for textile bleaching, dyeing, and printing, as well as evaluation and implementation of new products and processes, as well as cost analysis and reduction.

Linda Sapochak

Linda Sapochak

Division director of the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation

Emre Sevgen, PhD'19

Emre Sevgen, PhD'19

Data scientist at Evozyne

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Dr. Emre Sevgen is a molecular engineer with an interest in machine learning, who works at the intersection of mathematics, computation and the natural sciences. As a data scientist at Evozyne, Emre Sevegen works on software development, R&D, and protein engineering projects. Prior to Evozyne, Sevgen worked at IBM as a research assistant, and then at Citrine Informatics as a data engineer and data scientist, where he worked on R&D of models. Sevgen received his BS in chemical and biological engineering at UIUC, and then completed his PhD in 2019 in molecular engineering at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), where he conducted research in the Hubbell and de Pablo labs.

Andrew Shields

Andrew Shields

Head of the Quantum Technology Division at Toshiba Europe Ltd.

Paul Song

Paul Song

Co-founder and CEO of Fuse Therapeutics & Virafuse Biotherapeutics

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Paul Y. Song, MD, is a physician, progressive activist, and biotechnology entrepreneur. Song serves as the co-chair for a Campaign for a Healthy California. In 2013, Song was named and served as the very first visiting fellow on healthcare policy in the California Department of Insurance. In addition, Song serves on the executive board of Physicians for a National Health Program California, People for the American Way, Progressive Democrats of America, Healthcare NOW, The Eisner Pediatric and Women’s Center, and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. Song graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and received his MD degree from George Washington University. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at the University of Chicago and did a brachytherapy fellowship at the Institute Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France. He is on the staff at Dignity California Hospital where he sees primarily Medicaid and uninsured patients.

David Steuerman

David Steuerman

Director of academic and national lab partnerships at IonQ

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David Steuerman is the director of academic and national lab partnerships at IonQ. He draws on his experiences as a chemistry professor, R&D leader at a health-focused technology startup, and consultant for federal agencies to build programs and partnerships in quantum computing for IonQ. He has been fortunate enough to see field-shaping research first-hand and is fascinated by finding ways to support more scientists make their most impactful discoveries around the globe.

Steuerman completed his PhD in physical chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004, with the mentorship of Profs. James Heath and Sir Fraser Stoddart. Following his doctoral work in molecular electronics, Steuerman received the California Nanosystems Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship to explore spin physics in condensed matter systems under the guidance of Prof. David Awschalom.

Savas Tay

Savas Tay

Professor of molecular engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Prof. Savas Tay’s interests are in using engineering perspectives to understand how life works. His group develops single-cell analysis tools and applying them to unanswered questions in cell signaling and medicine. He is a co-founder of BiomeSense, a startup that is developing methods to use microbiome signatures to monitor patient health and response to therapy.

Matthew Tirrell

Matthew Tirrell

Dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Matthew Tirrell is the founding dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago. His personal research specializes in the manipulation and measurement of polymer surface properties. Dean Tirrell’s work has provided new insight into phenomena such as adhesion, friction, and biocompatibility, and contributed to the development of new materials based on self-assembly of synthetic and bio-inspired materials. Before becoming dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering in 2011, 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. Prior to that, he was dean of engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara for 10 years.

Tirrell began his academic career at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering and later became head of the department. Tirrell also served from 2015 – 2018 as deputy laboratory director for science at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was responsible for integrating the laboratory’s research and development efforts and science and technology capabilities. Tirrell received a BS in chemical engineering at Northwestern University in 1973 and a PhD in 1977 in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts. He has co-authored more than 400 papers and one book, has supervised over 100 PhD students and 50 postdoctoral researchers. Tirrell is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the Indian National Academy of Engineering, and is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, the AAAS, and the American Physical Society.

Elyse Watkins, PhD'20

Elyse Watkins, PhD'20

Postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern Medicine Department of Neurology

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Elyse Watkins, PhD’20, is from Miami, Florida and studied biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech for her undergraduate degree. She then attended the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago and trained under Prof. Jeffrey Hubbell, working on therapies to study immune tolerance and treat autoimmune diseases. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University training under Bob Vassar to investigate mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis.

Leah Weiss

Leah Weiss

Postdoctoral scholar in the Awschalom Group

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Leah Weiss is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) working in the Awschalom Group, focusing on spin-based quantum materials. She completed her MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge in the group of Prof. Sir Richard Friend where she was supported by a Gates-Cambridge Scholarship and by the Winton Fellowship for the Physics of Sustainability. Leah received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in Physics in 2013.

Sam Whiteley, PhD’19

Sam Whiteley, PhD’19

Research staff scientist at HRL Laboratories, LLC

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Sam Whiteley, PhD’19, joined HRL in August 2019 as a research staff member. His research has been at the intersection of process integration, materials science, and device physics in order to identify noise sources in silicon/silicon-germanium quantum dots while improving device fabrication.

Additionally, Sam leads a research team on the manufacturability of thin-film silicon carbide for photonics and quantum networking applications. Prior to joining HRL, Sam received his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago in the group of Prof. David Awschalom and earned a BS ‘14 in Physics from the University of California, San Diego with a specialization in biophysics.

Shann Yu

Shann Yu

Scientific director of the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

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Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Shann Yu earned a BS in bioengineering in 2008 from Rice University (Houston, TX), where he also earned departmental awards for his research on laser-based microfabrication and micropatterning techniques with Prof. Jennifer West. He then moved on to Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), where his research on macrophage-targeted polymeric siRNA and drug delivery vehicles in the laboratory of Prof. Todd Giorgio led to an MS (2009) and PhD (2012) in biomedical engineering—and recognition through the Biomedical Engineering Society’s (BMES) Research and Design Award in 2012.

He joined the Swartz Lab as a postdoctoral researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL; Lausanne, Switzerland) from 2013 to 2016, and continued his research at UChicago following the group’s relocation here. In 2019, Shann was selected to help lead efforts at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) to create a new research center centered around its efforts in the new field of immunoengineering, and now serves as the scientific director of the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center.

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