Driving ‘scientific research for societal good,’ UChicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering celebrates Class of 2023

The University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) celebrated 39 graduate students and 38 undergraduate molecular engineering majors from The College as they completed their academic journey on Saturday, June 3, during the University of Chicago’s 537th Convocation.

The main keynote address was delivered by Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Distinguished Service Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago. Ginsburg is one of the most cited scholars of international law in the United States.

Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering, gave an address at PME’s diploma and hooding ceremony at 1:00 p.m., following the University-wide Convocation.

Tirrell is stepping down as PME’s inaugural dean after leading the School (originally an Institute) since 2011.

“We take great pride in presenting this remarkable group of scholars who have demonstrated time and again their ability and motivation to propel necessary scientific research for societal good,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of PME. “Their accomplishment is deeply reassuring, that such talented and inspired scientists and engineers will now be working to the world’s betterment, these drivers of the new generation.”

Lauren “Ande” Hesser
Lauren “Ande” Hesser

Lauren “Ande” Hesser, a PhD graduate from the Hubbell Lab and Nagler Lab, investigated how commensal bacteria regulate the immune system to prevent the development of food allergies. She believes her field is poised to make dramatic changes in the scientific and medical realms. For her, PME has been an ideal ecosystem to study it.

“Immunoengineering is beginning to grow rapidly, and I'm excited to see how new microbiome-focused drugs move into the clinical space,” said Hesser. “I also hope that our new understandings may lead to societal changes in lifestyle choices and that we can learn to live in ways that are more beneficial for our microbiomes and ourselves.”

Hesser will continue working in the Nagler Lab as a postdoctoral researcher and ultimately plans to transition into the biotechnology industry.

Gabriella Richey
Gabriella Richey

Graduating master’s student Gabriella Richey spoke about the influence PME has had on her education and career path. Drawn to PME’s immunoengineering research, Richey explored how engineering principles and technologies could be applied to design more effective therapies.

“PME has had a significant impact on my academic and professional development,” Richey said. “The cross-disciplinary nature of the program allowed me to work alongside students and faculty from different academic backgrounds, which exposed me to valuable perspectives and approaches to problem-solving.”

Richey plans to continue working in the Chevrier lab to better prepare herself for a career in precision medicine. She is interested in developing personalized therapies tailored to individual patients, improving treatment outcomes and quality of life.

 Joel Grebel
Joel Grebel

Joel Grebel is graduating with a PhD in Quantum Science and Engineering. Grebel has worked in the Cleland Lab, investigating superconducting circuits as a means to developing a testbed for multi-photon quantum communication at microwave frequencies. Grebel, who was drawn to PME because of the work being done there to precisely engineer quantum mechanical systems, said that the school offered an unrivaled environment to pursue complex subjects.

“I truly appreciate the supportive and collaborative environment in the PME,” Grebel said. “People freely share their knowledge and perspectives, which is crucial to solving the many challenges that appear throughout difficult projects.”

“It is one of my greatest honors to, each year, personally welcome the newest group of extraordinary individuals who have earned their mark as PME graduates,” said Paul Nealey, Brady W. Dougan Professor of Molecular Engineering and vice dean for education and outreach. “Each of these students has risen to their calling, and I look forward to being witness to their many great accomplishments.”

Click here for information on the 537th Convocation, including seating, alternative viewing, schedule, and PME’s hooding ceremony.