Graduate Student Profiles

  • Viviana Palacio

  • de Pablo Group

    "My research is focused on the development of multiscale models of liquid crystals, specifically chiral nematics and smectics. Simulations of these systems will allow us to understand the nature of materials with internal microstructure and find diverse strategies to manipulate them to our specific needs. This will ultimately serve as a tool for designing systems that rely on molecular events amplified to the visible range, such as biosensors or plasmonic devices."


    "The IME offers a unique perspective on how to solve the upcoming challenges in engineering and science. It bridges the gap between developing a deep understanding of physical phenomena and the technical detail of real world applications. Being part of this kind of engineering program, that also builds on UChicago's long-standing tradition of academic distinction and pushing the frontiers of science, is appealing because it will enhance my problem-solving skills and critical thinking."

    "The IME has allowed me to push the limits I had set for myself and explore a broad range of topics outside of my background in engineering, which enriches my vision for the future. As a Fulbright fellow, I will be able to give back to the field not only by contributing to science but also by shaping how engineering is taught. As students and researchers, we are given the resources to form a close and collaborative community that strives for scientific progress."

    "Living in Hyde Park has given me the perfect balance between being immersed in a scientific community and being close enough to the city that I can attend many cultural events."

  • Taylor Gray

  • Hubbell Group

    "My work focuses on developing a new cancer vaccine.  More specifically, I am creating a molecule that is targeted specifically to cancer and that activates a patient's own immune system to attack cancer.  This will provide individualized cancer treatment without having to adapt the actual treatment to different patients."


    "I chose the IME because of its interdisciplinary approach to engineering.  On a daily basis, I get to interact with colleagues working in very different research areas.  This has exposed me to new fields and has helped me look at my own research in new ways. This approach is reflected in the curriculum also - IME students are able to tailor the curriculum to our interests and background by taking engineering courses together with offerings from other departments at UChicago."

    "Outside of the classroom, the IME is committed to providing learning experiences that are designed to help us become more effective communicators and teachers and to encourage us to become involved with our community.  For example, the IME offers a program in collaboration with the Museum of Science and Industry where students and faculty members are taught effective communication strategies and then lead a workshop for museum goers. There is also a course in scientific writing and a seminar series on the fundamentals of teaching specifically for IME students. This was something I didn't put much weight on in my graduate school decision process, but it has turned out to be very valuable."

    "I really enjoy that UChicago has a cohesive and beautiful campus because you don't feel like you always are in the hustle and bustle of the city."

  • Phil Rauscher

  • Rowan and de Pablo Groups

    "I work on simulation and physical characterization of polyrotaxanes. Rotaxanes, catenanes, and other topologically linked molecules have generated a great deal of excitement due to their applications as actuators, sensors, and other molecular machines. Of particular interest is the interface between such molecular architectures and polymer science and engineering. How can we model and understand the physical properties of bizarre and exciting new materials, such as slide-ring gels? What new tools or methods do we need to develop for these pursuits? Can we use simulation to predict and guide the synthesis of new high-performance systems?"


    "The IME was my top choice for a number of reasons. I've always had broad scientific interests, and at IME students are encouraged to explore all of it. Also, I particularly enjoyed the innovative atmosphere that comes with being a newer program. That, together with the world-class faculty, made the choice easy."

    "The graduate program at the IME is challenging, but extremely rewarding. I spent several years working as a technical consultant outside of science and engineering before returning to graduate school and I can honestly say that I faced more intellectual challenges in my first quarter at the IME than in three years at my old job. However, the experience has been fantastic."

    "Of all the graduate engineering programs that I looked at, no other place was as ambitious in their goals. The people here aren't just interested in being great engineers - they want to redefine what engineering is. No other place has that kind of vision."

  • Johnny Alfaro Perez

  • de Pablo Group

    "I am working on improving processing conditions for lactic acid bacteria--studying how different preservation methods influence the survival of these bacteria that are key to processing and digesting dairy products.

    "The IME at the University of Chicago stands out among graduate programs. In other academic environments, it is very difficult to find a place where you can safely express your ideas, pursue them, and be able to talk fearlessly with your colleagues and faculty.

    "The IME offers a lot of opportunities to grow, not only on the academic side, but also in engaging students with teaching, innovative technologies, and entrepreneurship. The IME curriculum is quite flexible. You take the classes that will benefit you and your research. The broad range of electives are another bonus. You can learn and build skills, for example, in how to run a business or how to turn research into a product to help people.

    "Everyone here is eager to make big contributions to society."

  • Léa Maillat

  • Swartz Group

    "My research aims at understanding further the role of the lymphatic system in the regulation of immunity. In particular, I am interested in how lymphatics traffic, process, and present antigens, and how that affects immune responses.

    "I chose the IME for its faculty members and because I was excited to be part of a new institute with ambition and innovative ideas. Beyond that, the IME is really devoted to making its students happy and successful. Students feel a part of a community in which they are close to each other and to faculty and administrative personnel."

    "The IME brings together outstanding faculty from different fields and focuses on training students to be broad problem-solvers with engineering skills rather than narrowly focused on one particular research area. Moreover, it allows collaborations between groups doing very different research, bringing new tools and solutions to problems.

    "I love UChicago's atmosphere and Chicago is a great city to live in with so much culture and so many activities."

  • Peter Mintun

  • Awschalom Group

    "My research has focused on topological insulators (TIs), a new class of materials that may be used as a platform for new physics or spintronic device applications. I have also been working on utilizing spin defects in semiconductors for use in quantum information processing.

    "The University of Chicago has a strong reputation. It has demonstrated a clear commitment to making the IME a success: from the new Eckhardt Research Center and labs to the aggressive hiring of stellar faculty. The range and number of resources and research support available to students are most likely unparalleled.

    "You are empowered to start working in a lab and finish course requirements quickly, and you have the opportunity to consult and work with colleagues in a broad range of disciplines. I don't think one could find another department with incredibly talented people in such a diverse set of areas in science/engineering.

    "It's fun having people from other scientific backgrounds in your cohort--we often think about the same concepts very differently and can learn a lot from each other."

  • Xuanxuan Chen

  • Nealey Group

    “My research focuses on directed self-assembly (DSA) of block copolymers (BCP), with applications in nanolithography. In particular, I mainly work with the LiNe process flow, which was developed by our group to precisely guide the assembly of BCP using lithographically defined chemically patterned substrates.”

    “The IME breaks down the barriers between different fields and brings people together to work on important problems. A physicist might reveal the mechanism behind a biological phenomenon based on the data collected by a chemist. You gain insights from your colleagues and in turn, gain a broader understanding of your research.

    “What I like most about the Institute for Molecular Engineering is the collaborative research atmosphere here, which leads to many opportunities to work outside of your lab. For the past two years, I have worked extensively at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab. Three months ago, I moved to Leuven, Belgium to continue the work of my group at IMEC, an internationally renowned research institute in nanoelectronics. These experiences have been incredibly valuable for my research.

    “I love having the chance to work with people from different backgrounds, and the opportunity to be enlightened from simple daily talks with colleagues.”

  • Arin Greenwood

  • Galli Group

    "My research includes first principle simulations of electronic structure and transport properties for semiconducting nanostructures, semiconductor defects for engineering material properties, and the modeling of nanoparticle assemblies using Density Functional Theory.

    “I chose the IME because it is unique--here, we have a say in how our degree, our future and the future of the department are shaped. I appreciate that my ideas and input are listened to.

    “Everyone here brings something different to the table to make original and creative scientific progress.  The language of science is universal, and the thought processes that are unique to each field lead to the best collaborative research. In addition to high-caliber research, we have a great balance of work and play, which can be rare.”

    “The IME has created a wonderful space for collaboration, discussion, and innovation”

  • Moshe Dolejsi

  • Nealey Group

    “Using materials designed by collaborators, my work investigates how their properties can expand the design space of nano-assembly. We focus on controlling the intermolecular interactions between materials in order to drive them to assemble into shapes and patterns desired by industry.”

    “One of the main reasons I chose this program was because I saw how focused the IME is on interdisciplinary work. If you look at the research challenges of today, for example the Engineering Grand Challenges, you can see that all of the challenges we face are really too large for any one individual to tackle. Just as these research challenges require a team of interdisciplinary investigators to find solutions it simply makes sense that PhD programs should also incorporate people from different backgrounds and disciplines. That is why the IME is so successful.

    “Having people in my program who are friends and colleagues provides me the feedback that’s necessary to make a good idea market ready, and I think that’s something really unique about the IME.

    “Everyone here believes in the Institute and wants it to succeed, which creates a very welcoming, warm environment.”

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