What drew you to PME?
When [Dean] Matthew Tirrell first approached Juan de Pablo and me in 2011, what drew me in was both the eminence of the University of Chicago and the level of enthusiasm of everyone there—the president, the provost, prominent members of the existing scientific departments—for bringing engineering to a school that had never had it before. We all wanted to go in a new, bold direction, forward-looking in terms of engineering research and education.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in your time at PME?
I’m proud of our school’s thoughtfulness and creativeness in building an undergraduate program with the College that matches the traditions and liberal arts strength of the University. The size and quality of our degree programs have grown rapidly, and we are still finding more ways to both connect students with Argonne National Laboratory Principal Investigators and resources and prepare students to fulfill leadership roles. I’m also proud of my research accomplishments that were uniquely enabled by coming here.
Where do you see PME in 10 years?
I see us doubling in size, strengthening our current research themes, and finding new areas to expand our research as we further integrate with the expertise and resources at Argonne. We’re launching programs to help molecular engineering become one of the larger majors in The College well before 10 years. We are also expanding programs with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Booth School of Business to strengthen the University as a destination for engineering and entrepreneurship.
What breakthroughs do you anticipate will happen in your field in 10 years?
We have the talent to make tremendous contributions to research around materials systems for sustainability and health. The grand challenges facing the world are related to sustainability—plastic waste, climate change, water scarcity, the need for clean energy, and many others. Those areas and PME contributions toward solutions for them will be society-changing over the next decade.