Matthew Tirrell is the Founding Pritzker Director and Dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, and senior scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory. He also served as Deputy Laboratory Director for Science at Argonne from 2015-2018. From 2009-2011, he was Professor and Chair of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Tirrell was Dean of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1999-2009. From 1977-1999, he was on the faculty of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota, where he served as Head from 1995-1999. Professor Tirrell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He has received the Polymer Physics Prize from APS and the Colburn, Professional Progress, Stine and Walker Awards from AIChE. He is Chair of the Scientific Affairs Committee of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Board, which supports research in the chemical sciences. Professor Tirrell was born in New Jersey and graduated from Northwestern in 1973 in chemical engineering, and from the University of Massachusetts in 1977 with a Ph.D. in polymer science.

Research Interests

Matthew Tirrell's work is in self-assembly and interfacial phenomena in organic material systems. Molecular-level forces such as hydrophobic, electrostatic, hydrogen bonding and others are deployed to create micellar nanoparticles, interfacially active materials, and hydrogels. Particular interests recently have been in understanding phase separation and new materials driven by polyelectrolyte complexation. These materials have both technological and fundamental biological significance as membrane-less encapsulants and compartment formers. Our lab has produced several new phase diagrams of liquid-liquid phase separation in electrostatically associating polymers. This work has uncovered new physics of phase transitions and leads to development of new materials, especially new self-assembled hydrogels. In the realm of micellar nanoparticles, we design and synthesize self-assembling molecules that can organize into multifunctional, multivalent objects with targeting, image contrast and therapeutic capabilities. Recent areas of concentration have been on micelles that target vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, that disrupt intracellular protein-protein interactions and that package nucleic acids for targeted and efficient delivery.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 31: Engineering Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 14: Chemistry