Matthew Tirrell, UC Santa Barbara engineering dean, to join UC Berkeley as new chair of bioengineering

| 15 January 2009

In a move that signals a major new direction for bioengineering research and teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew Tirrell, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara, has been appointed chair of the Department of Bioengineering in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley. Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau announced the appointment today (Thursday, Jan. 15), following a nationwide search.

Mathew TirrellMatthew Tirrell
Formed initially to develop prosthetics, diagnostic imaging and other medical devices, the field of bioengineering has been revolutionized by advances in genetics and the quantitative and physical sciences. Tirrell's charge is to secure a position of international prominence for bioengineering at UC Berkeley as it broadens its focus to include other societal challenges in addition to health.

"Matt Tirrell has been a leader in connecting basic research to applied problems and technology innovation," said Birgeneau. "At UC Berkeley, he will lead our bioengineering research and education, strengthening their impact not only on health, but also on agriculture, energy and the environment. I am absolutely delighted that Matt is joining us as a faculty colleague and an administrator."

Tirrell, 58, who also holds a position as a professor of chemical engineering and of materials science at UC Santa Barbara, is an eminent polymer scientist who has led the evolving field of soft materials, especially in adhesion and biomolecular materials. At UC Berkeley, he will hold the endowed Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professorship in the Departments of Bioengineering, Materials Science & Engineering and Chemical Engineering.

"I look forward with the highest enthusiasm and sense of excitement to beginning this appointment," said Tirrell. "UC Berkeley has the vision, drive and comprehensive excellence to make groundbreaking advances at the interface between engineering and biology."

He joined UC Santa Barbara in 1999 as dean of engineering, heading a college that has grown to 150 faculty and 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. He holds the Richard A. Auhll Professorship in the college. At UC Santa Barbara, he has been a strong advocate of interdisciplinary research and teaching, helping to establish the pioneering California NanoSystems Institute in partnership with UCLA and the highly productive UC Santa Barbara-led Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies with Caltech and MIT.

As chair of UC Berkeley's bioengineering department, Tirrell will succeed Dorian Liepmann, professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering, who has served as chair since 2004. Established in 1998, UC Berkeley's bioengineering department applies engineering principles and practices to living things to solve challenging problems in health, environment, energy and related areas. With 30 faculty, the department conducts research at the interface of biology and advanced technology, focusing on bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, nanotechnology, cell and tissue engineering, computational biology and systems and synthetic biology.

"Matt Tirrell joins us just as we are charting an ambitious strategic vision for the future of bioengineering," said S. Shankar Sastry, UC Berkeley's dean of engineering. "We are thrilled to have his leadership as we translate research results into technology that improves living conditions in transformational ways."

From 1977 to 1999, Tirrell was on the faculty of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota, where he served as head of the department from 1995 to 1999 and also as the director of the Biomedical Engineering Institute. He has co-authored 270 papers and one book and has supervised 70 Ph.D. students. He received his undergraduate education in chemical engineering at Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in 1977 in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He has received numerous other honors throughout his career, including Guggenheim and Sloan fellowships, a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the John H. Dillon Medal from the American Physical Society and the Allan Colburn Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Tirrell will begin his new appointment July 1, 2009.