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Matthew Tirrell

Joint Appointment/Senior Advisor


Matthew Tirrell is a senior advisor and senior scientist at Argonne and is the D. Gale Johnson Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His research specializes in the manipulation and measurement of polymer surface properties and in the study of materials and functional assemblies based on polyelectrolytes.

Tirrell has served in several science leadership roles at Argonne, notably deputy director for science from 2015 through 2018 and interim deputy director for science and technology in 2022 and 2023. At the University of Chicago, he served as founding director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) from 2011 to 2019, and then as dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering from 2019 to 2023.

Prior to his tenure at Argonne and the University of Chicago, Tirrell was the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and a professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Previously he served as the dean of engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tirrell began his academic career at the University of Minnesota, where he was the Shell Distinguished Chair in Chemical Engineering, Earl E. Bakken Professor of Biomedical Engineering, director of the Biomedical Engineering Institute, and head of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

He has provided leadership to numerous national and regional organizations, including the Science and Technology Panel of the University of California President’s Council for National Laboratory Administration from 2000 to 2010.

Tirrell received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and his doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He has received many honors, including the Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society, the National Award in Colloid Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, and Docteur Honoris Causa from the Université de Bordeaux.

Major Awards

  • 2022 | National Award in Colloid Chemistry, American Chemical Society
  • 2019 | Docteur Honoris Causa, Université de Bordeaux
  • 2019 | National Academy of Sciences
  • 2012 | Polymer Physics Prize, American Physical Society
  • 2009 | American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1997 | National Academy of Engineering