The Class of 2022ʼs welcome to the UChicago campus included an Aims of Education address delivered by philosophy professor Gabriel Richardson Lear. (Photography by Jean Lachat)

University news

A selection of the latest headlines from UChicago.

Lab catalyst

In August Juan de Pablo, Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, was named vice president for national laboratories. De Pablo will lead the University’s stewardship of two US Department of Energy national laboratories, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab. In addition, he will collaborate with other leaders in research and innovation to build programs and links between the national laboratories and the University, as well as the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Obama Scholars on campus

On August 27 the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago welcomed the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Scholars at Harris Public Policy. The international group of 25 scholars are focused on global issues, including climate change, education, and government transparency. The scholars are enrolled in a new master of arts in international development and policy degree program at Harris. The Obama Foundation Scholars program’s first cohort also includes 12 students participating in a yearlong immersive learning experience at Columbia University.

Nadella joins board

Satya Nadella, MBA’97, chief executive officer of Microsoft, has been elected to the University of Chicago Board of Trustees. He began his five-year term in September. Nadella was named chief executive officer of Microsoft in 2014 after holding leadership roles in both enterprise and consumer businesses across the company. He previously served as executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, leading its transformation to the cloud infrastructure and services business. Before joining Microsoft, Nadella was a member of the technology staff at Sun Microsystems.

Shaping research

Ka Yee Lee, professor in chemistry, the James Franck Institute, and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, was named vice provost for research in August. Lee will work with faculty and deans to enhance and expand research activities at the University. Among the programs she will oversee are University Research Administration, the University of Chicago Consortium for Advanced Science and Engineering, the Office of Research Safety, and the Research Computing Center.


The US Department of Energy announced its decision September 18 to renew the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), providing $120 million over the next five years. Led by Argonne National Laboratory, JCESR aims to create next-generation energy storage technologies that will transform transportation and the electric grid in the same way lithium-ion batteries transformed personal electronics. The University is one of 18 partners in JCESR, alongside other national laboratories, universities, and an industrial firm.

Giant steps

Hard rock excavation began this August for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which is expected to see first light as early as 2024. The University became a founding member of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization in 2010. Once complete, the GMT will produce images 10 times sharper in the infrared region of the spectrum than those from the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers will use these images to study planets around other stars and to look back to the time when the first galaxies formed. The telescope, housed at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, will have a final weight of about 1,600 metric tons and will comprise seven mirrors supported by a steel telescope structure seated on a concrete pier.

Her aim is true

Gabriel Richardson Lear, professor in philosophy and the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, delivered the Aims of Education address to the College Class of 2022. Part of Orientation Week since 1962, the lecture provides incoming undergraduates an opportunity to reflect on the purpose and definition of education. In her remarks, Lear focused on the concept of wonder, telling UChicago News, “The sort of wonder that orients us to wisdom is already an intellectual accomplishment. I try to clarify what wonder is, in the hopes that this will help students take the first step in their education.”

How do you feel about Wednesday?

In keeping with College tradition, aspiring members of the Class of 2023 will be required to answer one of six unconventional essay questions, released June 25. This year’s prompts include creating a new word and describing its meaning; devising a Harry Potter–style charm to solve a life problem of your choosing; and (inspired by Melbourne, Australia’s email service for trees) writing a letter to your favorite object.

A new innovation

Aspiring CEOs, take note: the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation announced the creation of the Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC), a program dedicated to supporting alumni in the process of launching and developing start-up ventures. All UChicago alumni are eligible to apply for the competitive accelerator program and work toward a spot in the global finals on May 2. The ANVC is the latest addition to the Edward L. Kaplan, MBA’71, New Venture Challenge, which also includes tracks for undergraduates, graduate students, Chicago Booth executive MBA students and alumni, and ventures with a social mission.

Clockwise from top left: Photography by Robert Kozloff; photography by Jean Lachat; courtesy Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation; courtesy Brian Smale and Microsoft (CC BY-SA 4.0)