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Explore the New Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering in Chicago University

The avant-garde school is the first in the United States to focus wholly on the trendy and rapidly growing field of molecular engineering.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   07-01-2020

BrainGain Magazine
One of award-winning Professor Giulia Galli's favorite parts of her day is working with her students. Photo by Jean Lachat

In May last year, the University of Chicago added its first new school in 31 years, creating the avant-garde Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) with $100 million in new funding from the Pritzker Foundation. It became the seventh of the university's schools, which include the highly ranked Booth School of Business and the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering is now the first school in the US dedicated to the trendy, and rapidly growing field of molecular engineering that builds on advances in basic science to design technology from the molecular level up.

Most importantly, the school integrates science and engineering to address key technological challenges starting from the molecular plane.
 

Award-Winning Faculty

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering is already making waves.

Students have the opportunity to learn from the best in the field which includes Professor Giulia Galli, a physicist, who was honored for her innovative use of supercomputers to predict how materials behave.

There are few scientists who would describe condensed matter physics — a branch that studies the behavior of solid matter — as “simple.” But to Professor Galli, it’s less complex than the problems she works on at the University of Chicago.

“Problems like water and energy are much more complicated than what I was trained for in condensed matter physics,” she told UChicago News. “All of my work is driven by problems.”

According to Louise Lerner, the news officer for physical sciences, at the University of Chicago, it’s “complex problems” like these that the Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering — the first of its kind to focus on this emerging field — was set up to solve.
 

A Physicist Cracks Molecular Secrets

“It’s the kind of innovative research that Galli, a theorist who uses computational models to figure out the behavior of molecules and materials, is helping tackle through her pioneering work,” points out Lerner.

The focus of Galli’s studies is to understand and predict how to harness molecular behavior to improve technology, particularly in the areas of purifying water, speeding up computation and sensing with quantum technology, and perfecting renewable energy technology.

“Essentially, we predict how atoms arrange themselves,” explained Galli, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at UChicago. “We do this by developing theoretical algorithms and powerful codes and simulations in order to understand the quantum mechanics at play in a given material.” 

For example, her group can use theory to predict which material will make a cheaper solar cell, or suggest a new configuration for a quantum bit made from electron spins.

“Energy and water are incredibly important problems—even a small improvement from your science can have a huge impact,” she said. “This is really important to me.”

Galli, who also heads the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials, has garnered international recognition for her work in helping shape the field. “She recently received the Feynman Theory Prize, an annual honor highlighting extraordinary work in harnessing quantum mechanics for the public interest,” notes a profile in UChicago News. It was her fourth such major award in her field this year.
 

Undergrad and PhD programs

The school offer a graduate program in molecular engineering for PhD students, as well as an undergraduate major and minor in molecular engineering. The school’s curriculum provides broad exposure not only to science and engineering disciplines, but also to product design, entrepreneurship, and communication.

BrainGain Magazine
The new Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering says that through “an interdisciplinary” approach, students are encouraged to apply their scientific interests to real-world issues.
 

New Master of Engineering Program

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering has just launched a master of science in molecular engineering (MSME) program, designed to prepare engineers for leadership positions across industries.

The degree was created to complement the school’s undergraduate and PhD programs in molecular engineering.

“In this competitive world, many industry career paths require deep knowledge that intersects both science and engineering and focuses on technological applications,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering.

“With a master’s degree in one of our specialized tracks — that combines the best education from several disciplines — graduates will have advanced, tailored skills in technical areas and be prepared to help solve difficult problems,” he added.

The new master’s program consists of 11 courses in two tracks: computational materials modeling, or polymer science and engineering. It is designed to be taken full time in one academic year and one quarter, but other options may be considered.

The computational materials modeling track blends molecular engineering, quantum and classical simulation, and data science to provide integrated training for the simulation, design and engineering of materials. Students in this track will take advanced courses in applied mathematics, thermodynamics, transport, quantum engineering, multiscale materials modeling, numerical methods, machine learning and statistical data analysis. Graduates will be prepared to work at the forefront of multiscale materials simulation and design.
 

Partnership with Argonne National Laboratory

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering partners with Argonne National Laboratory to deliver opportunities for research and innovation.

Argonne is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center, where talented scientists and engineers work together to solve the biggest questions facing humanity, from how to obtain affordable clean energy to protecting our environment. It was born out of the University of Chicago’s work on the Manhattan Project in the 1940s dealing with nuclear reactors.

In 1994, the lab's nuclear mission ended, and today it maintains a broad portfolio in basic science research, energy storage and renewable energy, environmental sustainability, supercomputing, and national security.

Argonne is known for its leading researchers and advanced facilities like the Advanced Photon Source, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, the Materials Engineering Research Facility, and the Center for Nanoscale Materials.
 

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Prashanth
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12 February 2020


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