Another benefit for Chicago will be with respect to encouraging more STEM education, including through a new partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago.
“By creating the nation’s first school of molecular engineering, the University of Chicago will transform the opportunities available for our young people while helping our city lead the 21st century in technology and innovation,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in the statement.
The U of C is adding the school as U.S. higher education increasingly emphasizes STEM studies that feed the country’s dominant health care and technology industries. While many of the Hyde Park university’s private rivals, including Evanston-based Northwestern University, have traditional engineering schools, the University of Chicago has been somewhat of an anomaly among top schools without one. It was third among national universities in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking last year, behind Princeton University and Harvard University, which both have engineering schools, and tied for third with Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University, which all have engineering schools.
The new school will build on the university’s existing Institute for Molecular Engineering, which was founded in 2011 with an earlier $25 million gift from the Pritzkers that also funded the construction of the university’s Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. The institute describes the field as involving “the incorporation of synthetic molecular building blocks including electronic, optical, mechanical, chemical, and biological components into functional systems that will impact technologies from advanced medical therapies to quantum computing.”
“We’ve built one of the country’s strongest groups in quantum computing and this is a hugely important developing technology that is likely to have an enormous transformative effect on all sorts of information management—it’s going to have transformative effects on economic development, on national security and on information security,” Zimmer said.
Matthew Tirrell, who has been director of the institute, will lead the new school. The institute currently has 28 faculty members, and Tirrell expects that headcount to at least double over the next 10 years, university spokesman Jeremy Manier said. The university is also in the “early planning stages for another science facility,” Manier said.
The Pritzker Foundation gift for the engineering school comes as the university is wrapping up a capital campaign this year that has raised $5 billion since 2014 against an initial goal of $4.5 billion. The Pritzker family members behind the foundation gift include Tom Pritzker, Gigi Pritzker, Penny Pritzker and Nicholas Pritzker, who are all related to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Tom Pritzker, who serves on the university’s board of trustees, received a law degree and an MBA from the school while Nicholas also received a law degree there.
The last school added to the university was the Harris School of Public Policy, in 1988.
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