Maria Rubio receives 2021 Maria Lastra award

Maria Rubio, project manager for the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), has received the Maria Lastra award for 2021 in recognition of her professional excellence and outstanding contributions to the school.

As a project manager, Rubio supports numerous activities across Pritzker Molecular Engineering, notably the Return to Research effort, which coordinated the resumption of research under University pandemic guidelines, and assisting with PME’s ten-year anniversary celebration held earlier this year.

“Maria’s work was especially impactful over the past year in helping us organize and respond to all the challenges of the COVID pandemic,” said Andrew Cleland, PME Return to Research Committee Chair;  John A. MacLean Senior Professor of Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise; and director of the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. “She played a key role in formulating and executing PME’s response to the pandemic, working tirelessly with the Return to Research committee as well as interfacing with other units on campus. She went well beyond the normal call of duty in her support for implementing as well as formulating creative solutions to the problems we faced.”

“The success of PME’s return to campus over the past year is owed in large part to Maria’s efforts,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering. “Her initiative and professionalism made her a standout candidate for this award. We are fortunate to have her.”

“Maria embodies the ideal colleague anyone would want on a challenging project,” said Fabienne Münch, executive administrator of PME events and global research collaboration. “She is one of the most reliable people I have ever worked with. She’s task-driven and people-focused at the same time, very generous with her time, and super detail-oriented.”

Rubio, who came to PME in 2014, is known as the go-to resource for projects at the school, recognized for her thoroughness and dependability. Prior to joining PME, Rubio played integral roles within several educational institutions including the Chicago Public Library and the University of California Irvine, where she worked in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and helped launch its School of Law.

“Over the past year my motivation has been getting the students and researchers safely back in the labs because the work they're doing is so important,” Rubio said. “That felt critical to me, particularly as some of the research was related to COVID, but also just to keep our students and research going because their work is so crucial to our mission.

“Our success would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the PME building and facilities team, who were on the ground ensuring that researchers had functioning lab equipment and supplies to continue their research.”

The Maria Lastra Award was established by Prof. Juan de Pablo, and is named in honor of his mother, an ardent supporter of higher education and advocate for recognizing those who make a significant difference in the lives of others through their professionalism and generosity.

“It's a particular honor to win this award because of Maria Lastra’s impact,” Rubio said. “As a first-generation college graduate, I've always been motivated to create educational opportunities for others.”

A selection committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students choose the recipient based on nominations. The committee expressed appreciation for the number and strength of this year’s nominations.