Tirrell Group: Sean Mao

Postdoctoral Appointee at Argonne National Laboratory & PME Visiting Scientist (Alumni 2019)

Tirrell Group


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    Current position: Senior Scientist, Sigma Aldrich Merck

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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 investigating 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, morphological transition mechanism of the ordered aggregates.

As time goes on, he is becoming more and more interested in non-covalent interactions (such as electrostatic interaction, hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic interaction). Due to these interactions, so many amazing processes in biological system can be driven.

For the postdoctoral studies, he wants to further expand his experience, by learning and using more powerful synthetic techniques, 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 be surprised by what has been waiting.


In 2004, Jun received his Bachelor’s degree of chemistry from Wuhan University. Wuhan is one of the hottest cities in summer in China, so he decided to move to Changchun, one of the coldest areas in winter in China. 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 as a postdoctoral researcher working for Prof. Matthew Tirrell and will spend most of his time at Argonne National Lab. The most attractive aspect of the Pritzker Molecular Engineering is the cross-collaboration and cutting edge research here. Some of the most exciting discoveries have always come as the result of multi-disciplinary research. It will be a great experience to learn and participate in creating innovative ideas for both the science and society.

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