Industry, academia come together in new PME Networking Night

The UChicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering’s industry partnerships have already brought around such innovations as cleaner water through Great Lakes ReNEW and Water-to-Cloud, biomedical research through the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and support for quantum education across Japan, Korea and the United States.

A new PME Industry Networking Night that debuted at the American Physical Society’s most recent conference created the connections that will spur tomorrow’s groundbreaking innovations. The networking event brought PME faculty, PhD students and postdocs together with more than 30 industry figures representing 17 companies.

“The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering is a young institution, but we’re already driving solutions to some of humanity’s biggest problems,” said PME Dean Nadya Mason. “That’s only possible when we reach beyond the lab and the classroom, working hand-in-hand with our strong industry partners.”

PME faculty have long been involved with additional events at the APS convention, including the Chicago Quantum Exchange’s Quantum Open House and the public debut of the STAGE Lab’s Quantum Casino. This marks a new event that planners hope to make a yearly mainstay.

“As a fast-growing engineering school, our industrial partners are key to many of our future strategic plans,” said Director of Career Development Briana Konnick, who organized the event with Assistant Director of Employer Engagement Xiao Yun Sim and Director of Corporate Engagement Felix Lu. “Our goal was to capitalize on both the industrial and academic audiences attending this year’s APS March Meeting to drive connections and develop longer-term relationships towards talent recruitment, potential research collaborations and technology-focused conversations.”

Steven Rhyner, Lab Director in the 3M Corporate Research Analytical Laboratory, was one of the industry figures who attended.

“The UChicago PME-Industry Networking Event was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with past colleagues and build new connections with faculty, staff and students,” Rhyner said. “We look forward to additional interactions leading to an even stronger research partnership.” 

Ignas Masiulionis, a PhD candidate in the Guha Lab, said students can often focus on the lab, unintentionally neglecting the other work needed to build a strong career in the sciences.

“It is very easy to get absorbed in research as a PhD graduate student and lose track of networking opportunities that are there at the university,” he said. “Therefore, events like this at a major conference allow us to connect with potential employers outside a laboratory setting as well as share our scientific endeavors and interests with them.”

PME Prof. Liang Jiang was one of the faculty attendees of the night. He said the connections forged there go beyond just job hunts, creating new ways for researchers in both university and private sector settings to work together.

“The PME Industry Networking night at APS is invaluable for our engineering programs, as it provides us with opportunities to connect directly with industry professionals, fostering valuable relationships and opening doors to potential collaborations,” he said. “In the field of quantum information research, university and industry share a remarkably close connection. Strengthening these ties will undoubtedly yield mutual benefits.”

Prof. Supratik Guha echoed the sentiment.

“I hope that our students and post-docs who attended the event came away with an appreciation of the wide gamut of careers that are going to be available to them, that include both large corporations as well as startups,” he said. 

PhD student Yan Fang, who also received the Frank J. Padden Award at the APS March meeting, said she was excited not only to talk about her own research, but about the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering as a whole.

“It was exciting to be able to speak directly to industry leaders about the new type of engineering program we’re developing at UChicago,” said Fang.   

Learn more about corporate engagement at the UChicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering