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Distinguished Researcher to Deliver Tripathy Lecture

David Tirrell Will Discuss Artificial Proteins, Amino Acids

David Tirrell
Prof. David A. Tirrell

By Edwin L. Aguirre

David A. Tirrell, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at Caltech, will discuss advances in the interface between polymer chemistry and macromolecular engineering at this year’s Sukant Tripathy Annual Memorial Lecture, which will be held on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 3:30 p.m. at Alumni Hall on the North Campus.

Tirrell, who received his Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering in 1978 from UMass Amherst, has developed a technique that allows him to reprogram microbial host cells so they can express artificial genes, turning the cells into factories that precisely manufacture materials of specific design, structure and function for use in biomedical applications.

In his talk, entitled “Reinterpreting the Genetic Code: The Macromolecular Chemistry of Artificial Proteins and Artificial Amino Acids,” Tirrell will describe his research into methods for creating a new class of macromolecular materials that can be used in biology, biotechnology and medicine. 

Tirrell’s contributions to these fields have been recognized by his election to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Sukant Tripathy’s Legacy

Each year, a leading scientist in the field of materials science comes to UMass Lowell to present a lecture in memory of Sukant K. Tripathy. The late UMass Lowell professor of chemistry was an internationally recognized leader in research of thin polymer films in electronics and optics, publishing more than 200 refereed papers and holding two dozen patents. He founded the Center for Advanced Materials (CAM) and was formerly the University’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Now in its 10th year, the memorial lecture is co-sponsored by Konarka Technologies and the CAM. Konarka is a world leader in the technology and applications of low-cost, flexible photovoltaic polymers.

Tirrell joins a distinguished list of Nobel laureates and leading figures in materials science research who have delivered the memorial lecture. This includes Profs. Alan MacDiarmid and Alan Heeger (co-winners, 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Robert Grubbs (co-winner, 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) and Craig Mello (co-winner, 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine).

Other campus activities honoring Tripathy’s memory include the Tripathy Endowed Memorial Summer Graduate Fellowship, which is awarded to doctoral students for outstanding research in the fields of materials and polymer sciences, and the Tripathy Memorial Symposium, which showcases the latest advances in the field each year.

For more information, visit the CAM website.