Craig J. Hawker

University of California, Santa Barbara

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 31, Engineering Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2022)


Craig Hawker is a chemist recognized for his work in functional polymers. He came to UCSB in 2004 after eleven years as a Research Staff Member at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA. Prior to this he graduated with a B.Sc. degree from the University of Queensland and received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. His work has led to over 600 peer-reviewed papers and 80 patents with a focus on the establishment of start-up companies including Relypsa, Intermolecular, Olaplex, and Tricida. For his pioneering studies, his recent honors include the 2021 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success from the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Craig Hawker's research is focused on controlling the structure of polymeric materials, Major advances have included the development of living free radical polymerization processes with the concept of well-defined initiators allowing for facile control over molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, macromolecular architecture, and polymer composition. The close marriage of organic chemistry and materials synthesis is also evident in the discovery of robust, efficient and orthogonal reactions for the preparation of functional materials.  The ability to tolerate a wide variety of functional groups and reaction conditions allows a degree of control over multiple functional groups, which previously was associated only with biological systems. Using innovative applications of fundamental organic chemistry concepts, this work has opened up the dendrimer field and allowed researchers unprecedented control over every aspect of the composition, structure and topology of these molecules. The beauty of the molecules, combined with a range of insightful experiments into their structure and properties, clearly demonstrated to the wider scientific community that these branched materials were different from traditional linear polymers.

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