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Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

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  • 31,000 students of which 20 percent are international
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Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

In His Own Words

Those Magic Moments

There were several important points: working under Professor Penczek, my first supervisor (who also received a Doctorate Honoris Causa from UPMC), joining Professors Sigwalt and Vairon at UPMC, and moving to Carnegie Mellon. However, perhaps most important was working on controlled/living radical polymerization that was considered impossible at the time.

Challenges to Come

The two challenges are the ever increasing selectivity of polymerization, related to more efficient catalysis under environmentally benign conditions; and developing a highly precise control of macromolecular architecture, providing advanced intelligent materials that can perhaps self-rejuvenate or self-replicate.

With UPMC

It has been a very rewarding experience, permitting my transformation from student to teacher. I have always been very impressed by the hospitality of my French colleagues that enabled me to better understand France and explore all aspects of French culture.

Words for the Up & Coming

The most important thing is to have a passion for whatever you want to do, you should not be afraid to attack the most challenging problems. Have your eyes open to see what’s happening outside your discipline, have your ears open to hear what’s going on around you. Your mind should be open to better understand our world and your heart open to recognize the most important problems to be solved.

 

professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

Presented by Claire-Marie Pradier, director of the Surface Reactivity Laboratory, UPMC/CNRS

 

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to present Professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski to whom Pierre and Marie Curie University now wishes to give the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.

 

And since it is my responsibility to speak specifically about one of the honorary doctorates being awarded today, the time allotted to me is limited so Professor Matyjaszewski, as modest as he is, will only suffer the limelight for a short time.

 

But how can I summarize such a brilliant career in just a few minutes?

 

Here are some highlights:

Born in Poland in 1950, you, sir, got your doctorate in Lodz in 1976, at a time when Poland was entering a difficult period both economically and socially. You quickly understood that it was necessary for a researcher to establish many contacts with colleagues abroad so you traveled the world, stopping in France, at our University where you spent a year and a half as Associate Professor in 1984-1985.

 

You were named Assistant Professor at quite a young age, and then full professor at Carnegie- Mellon University in Pittsburgh where you have been director of the Macromolecular Engineering Centre since 1998.

 

Your passion—or should we say “obsession”—is to understand the mechanisms and kinetics of reactions of ionic and radical polymerizations, as written in your seminal article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1985, which has been cited more than 3,000 times!

 

You not only discovered Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization (ATRP), a method that has revolutionized the most important type of polymer synthesis, but you have explained the basic mechanism and have developed it to an industrial level in the fields of nanocomposites, bioconjugates, tissue engineering, materials for optoelectronics, and others. You say that the success of your method, which is of elegant simplicity, is due to the laziness of chemists who would rather avoid making numerous intermediate syntheses before reaching a wide variety of compounds, homopolymers that have complex molecular architectures. I would say that more than your method, it is you who have remarkable simplicity, accessibility and clarity of expression. You say it is easy.... “Just imagine a balance between species whose one end is deactivated, coexisting with an active species to control the growth of the chains.” But then....why didn’t anyone think of this before??

 

In the field of polymers and more generally of chemistry, you have produced more than 800 scientific contributions, including publications in major international journals, books/book chapters, and patents, for which you have had nearly 60,000 citations and exceptional impact index (h = 125).

 

You are paradoxical: because on one hand, you are very international, with research recognized around the world—and you’ve been asked to present more than 1,000 conference lectures. On the other hand, you are a very loyal and close to only three privileged countries that you hold dear: Poland, of course, the United States that have adopted you—and they knew how to hold on to you; and France.

 

Already a member of three Academies of Sciences (Russia, Poland, USA-Engineering), you have also received honorary doctorates from universities and research organizations in six countries including France....

 

But what was UPMC waiting for? You began your career in science at UPMC, with a particularly close relationship—you could almost call it fusional—with the Laboratory of Polymer Chemistry. Needless to say, you obviously speak French.

 

While in Paris, you were a Research Associate and visiting professor in 1984, and you studied the mechanisms and kinetics of polymerization reactions with Professor P. Sigwalt, director of the Laboratory of Polymer Chemistry.

 

Since UPMC was unable to offer you a long-term position at that time, it was Carnegie -Mellon that hired you as a professor and created your prestigious Center for Macromolecular Engineering. Moreover, today you have dual nationality Polish-American. But you have certainly not forgotten France.

 

It seems that you remember your time in Paris with enthusiasm, both for scientific reasons and for the friendships you made within the Laboratory teams. A long and close collaboration immediately ensued, which lasted until recently, with P. Sigwalt’s team of course, then with J.-P. Vairon, and later with B. Charleux until he left for Lyon in 2009. This was real collaboration, for example, after the discovery of ATRP, which led the laboratory to be interested in the controlled radical polymerization, and, dare we say led you to address the controlled emulsion polymerization, which was then studied in the laboratory. Throughout these years, PhD students and trainees from these two laboratories were routinely exchanged for a few weeks to a few months of training. Many joint publications resulted from this long collaboration.

 

Professor Matyjaszewski, you have since made frequent sabbatical visits to the UPMC laboratory, as Associate Professor, and for a full year on an Elf/Academy of Science chair in 1998. You have naturally taught at our university and given numerous seminars during each stay. And not a year passes without your coming to UPMC to give a lecture, a seminar for researchers and PhD students, or simply to discuss the scientific areas that we have in common.

 

But I realize that I have barely talked about your scientific publication, and I have saved mentioning one of the highest scientific awards you have received for the end, I mean the 2011 Wolf Prize in chemistry.... which some consider the antechamber to a Nobel....

 

French chemists recently honored you with the 2012 Franco-Polish Chemical Society Award in France. Today, we at UPMC would like to show our admiration and immense pride to count you among our scientific friends.

 

The title of Doctor Honoris Causa is awarded to you by our University. Please receive this as a respectful and admiring tribute to a brilliant scientist and humanist that both France and UPMC are proud to claim as friend.



12/12/13