PME graduates celebrate success during convocation

Eight Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) graduate students and 28 undergraduate molecular engineering majors celebrated the end of their academic careers here and the beginning of a new chapter in their lives during the University of Chicago’s 532nd Convocation held Saturday, June 15, 2019.

The day began with bagpipe bands leading a massive procession of graduates from each of the University’s schools into the Main Quadrangles of campus before President Robert J. Zimmer verbally conferred 5,353 degrees to the candidates present.

In the afternoon, each school and division held their own diploma and hooding ceremonies, including the newly named Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.

Among the seven PhD recipients who participated in the Pritzker Molecular Engineering celebration was Lu Li, who will soon join 3M as a senior research scientist. Li said she will miss the close collaboration between engineers and scientists of different disciplines that is a hallmark of PME’s distinctive approach to research and education.

“As an experimentalist in polymer science, I was always communicating and working together with theorists who were capable of conducting advanced analytical calculation and computer simulation to investigate important physical interactions in polymeric systems,” said Li, who was part of the Tirrell Group. “Thanks to the common lab area, researchers were granted countless opportunities to discuss scientific ideas, figure out problems, and conceptualize research projects together.”

Youpeng Zhong completed his doctorate in March and walked during convocation on Saturday. Zhong said he felt lucky to have witnessed the growth of PME during his four years here.

“The vision and mission of PME and the supportive community at UChicago have attracted top level talents from all over the world,” said Zhong, who will do a short post-doc with the Cleland Lab before pursuing a faculty position in academia. “I believe PME will become a worldwide successful model of a school for emerging science and technologies.”

Alfred Chon, who will join the Huron Consulting Group as a life science associate, commented that people are PME’s strongest asset.

“I got the most out of being around people with all kinds of intellectual mindsets and being driven to think about problems in a different way,” said Chon, a member of the Esser-Kahn Group.

Other graduates included Brittany Moser, from the Esser-Kahn Group, who will be joining Gartner Lab at the University of California San Francisco as a postdoc. Yu Kambe (Nealey Group), Emre Sevgen (de Pablo Group/Hubbell Lab), and Hao Wu (Tirrell Group) participated in the ceremony, with official PhD degrees being awarded in August pending completion of their programs. Also participating in the ceremony was Ryan McAvoy of the Galli Group, who received an MS in the Autumn Quarter. Lily Delalande of the de Pablo Group was awarded an MS in the Spring Quarter but did not participate.

Gabriela Basel, who celebrated convocation with 15 family members, was among the undergraduate majors in molecular engineering who graduated from the College. She will work with PME faculty member Juan de Pablo before starting graduate work at Stanford University in the fall. 

“I think I was very lucky to work with such high caliber professors,” said Basel, who is interested in applying computational theoretical biophysics to neuroscience. “Just getting to work with such impressive people was the best part of being here.”

For the graduates, a sense of pride and optimism for the future prevailed throughout the day. The faculty members who worked with them also reflected these sentiments.

“We have an outstanding group of doctoral and undergraduate students graduating today,” said Dean Matthew Tirrell. “They have put in long hours in the classroom and in labs to earn the degrees that they’ve received this afternoon. I am proud of their accomplishments and look forward to seeing what their futures hold.”