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January 26, 2016

Director of Institute of Molecular Engineering Hosts Reddit AMA

By Alex Ward   

Matthew Tirrell, Pritzker director of the recently founded Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) and deputy laboratory director for science at Argonne National Laboratory, held an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) event last Monday on Reddit.

During the hour-long event, Tirrell responded to 27 of about 70 questions from site users about his work at the IME and Argonne. According to Tirrell, a colleague suggested the idea of holding an AMA at Argonne, where he spent the duration of the event. Other Argonne employees have previously held AMAs, including Marius Stan, a senior scientist and actor known for his role as the character Bogdan on the television show Breaking Bad.

Tirrell emphasized the institution’s focus on engineering, and how the products of scientific inquiry carried out elsewhere can be best applied to society. Tirrell also spoke about several of the projects currently under development at Argonne and the IME. In particular, he highlighted the development of nanoparticles for medical purposes such as the treatment of heart disease, as well as techniques for water purification and conservation.

Tirrell says that he enjoyed doing the AMA and feels that this type of outreach is very important to his field. “Engineering is all about providing some good for society, so I think it’s really important to be in touch with people to do engineering well. What do people need, what would provide value?”

Although the AMA was originally intended to be a one-time event, Tirrell says that he is now considering the possibility of holding future Q&A sessions on a quarterly basis. Although both the IME and Argonne have Twitter and Facebook pages, Tirrell says that he enjoyed the immediacy of his interactions over Reddit and plans to create an IME account on the site.

In response to a question about the part of his work he enjoys most, Tirrell explained that he likes educating others about what he does. “I enjoy finding new ways to get important messages across about my field, my research, IME, the University of Chicago, and Argonne. You have to like interacting with students and other audiences to do this job.”

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