Nadya Mason

Experimental physicist Nadya Mason became dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering on October 1. (UChicago News Office)

UChicago news highlights

A selection of the latest headlines from across campus.

Faculty investment

A $75 million gift from Amy Wallman, MBA’75, and UChicago trustee Richard Wallman, MBA’74, will augment resources for faculty and support ambitious scholarship in divisions and schools across the University. The couple’s pledge—the largest in support of faculty chairs in UChicago’s history—will also launch a fundraising challenge aimed at inspiring others to join them in contributing a total of $150 million to create 30 new endowed professorships. “This remarkable gift, which has the potential to advance scholarship and research across so many fields, speaks volumes about Richard’s and Amy’s commitment to the University,” said David M. Rubenstein, JD’73, chair of UChicago’s Board of Trustees. It is the couple’s fifth significant gift to the University.

New trustees

In May 2023, the University of Chicago Board of Trustees elected four new members. Paul Carbone, AB’83, is cofounder and president of family investment firm Pritzker Private Capital. Richard Gonzalez is chairman of the board and founding CEO of global biopharmaceutical company AbbVie. Hilary Krane, JD’89, is the chief legal officer at talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Vasant “Vas” Narasimhan, AB’98, is CEO of multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis AG.

In addition, Barry Fields, JD’91, has been elected chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) Board of Trustees. A recently retired partner of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, he has served on the UCMC Board since May 2019 and the UChicago Board of Trustees since May 2022. Fields succeeds Brien O’Brien, who had been UCMC Board chair since 2018.

A new dean for PME

On October 1 experimental physicist Nadya Mason became dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. Mason was previously the Rosalyn S. Yalow Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she led two multidisciplinary research centers. Her own research focuses on the electronic properties of small-scale materials, such as nanoscale wires and atomically thin membranes. A recipient of numerous awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Mason is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mason succeeds Matthew Tirrell, who had led the University’s molecular engineering program since its inception in 2011.

Second term for Patel

In August Nipam Patel was reappointed director of the Marine Biological Laboratory, a position he has held since 2018. A scholar of modern evolutionary and developmental biology, he is also a UChicago professor. During his tenure, MBL has created several new advanced research training courses, and its year-round educational offerings have grown to include a high school program and new courses for UChicago undergraduates. He also launched the MBL/UChicago PhD program, leveraging the partnership between the two institutions.

Tech collaboration

On September 8 UChicago and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay announced a partnership to promote cooperation in fields such as quantum information science, climate and energy, advanced microelectronics, artificial intelligence, and data science. IIT Bombay has also joined the Chicago Quantum Exchange, headquartered at UChicago, as one of five international partners.

Living physics

In September the National Science Foundation awarded $15.5 million over six years to researchers at UChicago to establish the Center for Living Systems to advance a new field of physics that focuses on how living matter can store, retrieve, and process information. The center, one of four newly funded 2023 NSF Physics Frontier Centers, will be led by Margaret Gardel, the Horace B. Horton Professor of Physics and Molecular Engineering.

Managing up

In July Chicago Booth announced the creation of a 10-month Master in Management Program. The new degree—the school’s first in 88 years—is designed for recent college graduates who studied in the humanities, arts, social sciences, biological sciences, or physical sciences and are interested in jobs that value business-oriented skills and knowledge. The first cohort will begin their studies in fall 2024.

MacArthur Fellow

Rina Foygel Barber, SM’09, PhD’12, Louis Block Professor of Statistics, is a 2023 MacArthur Fellow. The annual awards from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation invest in individuals from across disciplines who “show exceptional creativity in their work.” Barber was recognized for her work designing ways to better handle large or imperfect datasets, giving researchers in a range of fields—such as health care, climate science, and astronomical imaging—tools to improve their analysis. In particular, she focuses on ways to quantify the uncertainty of data analysis results.

Open books

With censorship attempts at US libraries on pace to set a record for the third straight year, the UChicago Library is expanding access to banned books. The library is creating a comprehensive on-site collection of books that have been banned in areas of the United States and is working with the Digital Public Library of America on two initiatives to make banned books available electronically to Illinois residents and to people in communities where the books have been banned.