Steven Sibener on Establishing the Institute for Molecular Engineering
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Steven Sibener on Establishing the Institute for Molecular Engineering


[ Music ]>>Molecular engineering is the study of
how systems behave at the molecular level. So it’s not just one molecule,
but it’s how you group them into ensembles to achieve a given purpose. We do this every day in our lives and as
living beings and we’ve taken great lessons from biology, but also from physical
sciences we’ve now learned enough about molecular behavior to actually
group systems together to achieve purposes in functional materials; noise of
scavenging energy, purifying water. The ability to design these
for the first time is upon us. So my involvement with molecular engineering
began in late 2006 when I was asked by President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum to
chair the faculty committee on this topic. Chicago has a great tradition of faculty
deciding the great new directions of university and this is certainly a case like that. The faculty committee was brought together from
physical sciences, the biological sciences, the medical school, and the
idea was to find themes that would make great opportunities
apparent for the university and for great intellectual leaps in the future. So at Chicago, we have not had really
engineering here since inception. There’s certainly been pockets of it and a
lot of its being done today at certain points and again, the medical school,
biological and physical divisions, but we don’t really have an ingathering
where this is done under one roof in an integrated and focused manner. So the transformative thing for the
university is that we’re going to be able to define a new field as it is forming. We have adjacencies in our current strengths in
those fields already in place and the ability to take the science that we develop
here into more applied directions with molecular engineering and
moreover, the devices that people make in molecular engineering will allow our basic
researchers to make fundamental discoveries. There’s going to be a great impact
on education at the university. A new cohort of students are going to
come to the university who are still going to take the core, they’re going to be very
interested in what we do but over time, they’re going to bring new directions to what
we do and how we study things the renew interest in the engineering sciences and I think
that’s going to be very important. We’re going to educate our current students in
new ways and we’re going to bring in students who otherwise would elect
to not come to Chicago.

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