Tirrell Group

Sean Mao, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Appointee at Argonne National Laboratory
    PME Visiting Scientist (Alumni 2019)
    Senior Scientist, Sigma Aldrich Merck

  • Contact: maoj@uchicago.edu

In 2004, Jun received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Wuhan University. Wuhan is one of the hottest cities in China during the summer, so he decided to move to Changchun, one of the coldest areas in China during the winter. He earned his PhD in polymer physics and chemistry from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He loved the pure blue sky there and the forthright character of northeastern people. He then joined the faculty of Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry as an assistant professor. However, Jun then chose to move from China to join the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, where he works for Professor Matthew Tirrell as a postdoctoral researcher, and will spend most of his time at Argonne National Lab. The most attractive aspect of PME is its cross-collaboration and cutting-edge research. Some of the most exciting discoveries have come as the result of multidisciplinary research, and for Jun, it will be a great experience to learn and participate in creating innovative ideas for both science and society.

During his PhD, Jun’s interests ranged widely. He spent part of his time preparing high-quality inorganic nanoparticles under mild conditions, then he synthesized a series of biocompatible block polyelectrolytes, combining ring-opening polymerization and atom transfer radical polymerization. He also investigated the micellar behaviors of these block polyelectrolytes in aqueous solutions, mainly using laser light scattering.

After joining the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, his research focused on the interactions between block copolymers and inorganic nanoparticles, working to reveal their fundamental solution behaviors, such as structure and morphological transition mechanism of the ordered aggregates.

As time goes on, he is becoming more and more interested in noncovalent interactions (such as electrostatic interaction, hydrogen bonding, and hydrophobic interaction). So many amazing processes in the biological system can be driven by these interactions.

For his postdoctoral studies, he wants to further expand his experience by learning and using more powerful synthetic techniques and designing and exploring more elegant block copolymers. He is still at the early stage of understanding why the polymer world is so beautiful and is looking forward to being surprised by what awaits him.

Gel phase formation in dilute triblock copolyelectrolyte complexes

S. Srivastava, M. Andreev, A. E. Levi, D. J. Goldfeld, J. Mao, W. T. Heller, V. M. Prabhu, J. J. De Pablo, M. Tirrell. Gel phase formation in dilute triblock copolyelectrolyte complexes. Nature Commun.. 2017. Vol. 8, Pg. 14131.