Alumnus Milan Mrksich named Northwestern's vice president for research

Date

05/26/20

Alumnus Milan Mrksich (BS, '88) has been named Northwestern University's vice president for research following a nationwide search.

A senior researcher with appointments in biomedical engineering, chemistry and cell and developmental biology at Northwestern, Mrksich took over as interim vice president for research on Oct. 1, 2019, and was officially named to the position on May 14, 2020.

Mrksich joined Northwestern in 2011 from the University of Chicago, strengthening Northwestern’s presence in chemistry, nanosciences, and bioengineering and giving the synthetic biology program a major lift, according to the university’s announcement.

Mrksich worked for years to develop a technology that measures biochemical reactions at an unprecedented throughput. The technology, which he dubbed SAMDI, or self-assembled monolayers desorption ionization, addressed a significant need in early-stage drug development. This method can evaluate millions of chemicals to identify those that are active in blocking protein function and that serve as a starting point for developing drug candidates that enter clinical trials.

“My program combines new scientific insights with engineering approaches to develop solutions to important biomedical challenges,” Mrksich said. “For example, my lab’s development of the SAMDI mass spectrometry method gives a ‘label-free’ method for analyzing reactions, which now allows tens of thousands of reactions to be performed per day. This technology has been commercialized and is now used throughout the pharmaceutical industry to support early-stage drug discovery.”

Mrksich will lead Northwestern’s Office for Research, which includes directing a research infrastructure with annual sponsored research funding totaling $798.3 million in 2019. He also will lead the development and implementation of university-wide strategic plans that support high-impact research initiatives.

As interim, Mrksich has led the university’s research portfolio during the COVID-19 pandemic, working with his leadership team to oversee adjustments in research activity during the outbreak to maintain essential laboratory and administrative services and is now planning for the transition of research back to campus.

“Milan has shown tremendous leadership during this unprecedented time when groundbreaking research is more important than ever,” said President Schapiro. “Right now, Milan is taking a proactive approach to intensify our research to combat COVID-19 while ensuring the University continues to uphold its rigorous, high-quality research standards.”   

Mrksich has appointments in the departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell & Developmental Biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, McCormick School of Engineering and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He is founding director of the Center for Synthetic Biology and a leader in developing surface chemistries for a range of applications in the life sciences. 

Interim Provost Hagerty is pleased Mrksich has agreed to stay in the position. 

“Milan has been an excellent leader, and not only will he provide important stability and continuity for our research enterprise in this unprecedented time, but he will foster innovation to help ensure Northwestern remains at the forefront of transformative research and discovery,” Hagerty said.

With his lab, Mrksich has published more than 200 papers and presented approximately 500 invited lectures on his work. Among the awards he has earned are the Searle Scholar Award, the Sloan Research Fellowship, the Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the iCON Innovator Award, and the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award. He also is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

In addition to his work at Northwestern, Mrksich has contributed to national service, including having served as chair of the Defense Sciences Research Council, which is an advisory board to DARPA; on the Board of Governors for Argonne National Laboratory; scientific director of the Searle Scholars Program; and the chair of multiple National Institutes of Health study sections.

As founding director of the Center for Synthetic Biology, Mrksich has helped oversee work on a new field that is learning how to engineer biology’s approaches for new purposes, including the green manufacture of chemicals, development of next generation therapeutics, and sensors for a variety of purposes.

In addition, he also has served as the associate director for technology in the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he worked to ensure that state-of-the-art instrumentation and techniques are available to the Northwestern research community.   

His roles in the cancer center, on many committees and his extensive collaborative research with other faculty, have given Mrksich a broad perspective on the strengths and opportunities for advancing Northwestern’s research programs.

Mrksich earned his BS in chemistry, magna cum laude, from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in 1989. He earned his PhD in organic chemistry from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, in 1994 and served as a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard University before beginning his independent career at the University of Chicago in 1996.

Mrksich lives in Hinsdale with his family and enjoys playing guitar, traveling and attending Northwestern football games.

Related Topics

Directory

scheelinAlexander
Scheeline
bjmccallBenjamin
McCall
r-gennisRobert
Gennis
j-gerltJohn
Gerlt
sgranickSteve
Granick
mgruebelMartin
Gruebele
hergenroPaul
Hergenrother
huangRaven
Huang
mlkraftMary
Kraft
leckbandDeborah
Leckband
yi-luYi
Lu
martinisSusan
Martinis
snairSatish
Nair
eoldfielEric
Oldfield
cmsCharles
Schroeder
zanZaida
Luthey-Schulten
selvinPaul
Selvin
sksScott
Silverman
s-sligarStephen
Sligar
tajkhorsEmad
Tajkhorshid
zhao5Huimin
Zhao
pbraunPaul
Braun
mdburkeMartin
Burke
jeffchanJefferson
Chan
sdenmarkScott
Denmark
dlottDana
Dlott
foutAlison
Fout
agewirthAndrew
Gewirth
ggirolamGregory
Girolami
sohirataSo
Hirata
jainPrashant
Jain
jkatzeneJohn
Katzenellenbogen
nmakriNancy
Makri
douglasmDouglas
Mitchell
jsmooreJeffrey
Moore
murphycjCatherine
Murphy
r-nuzzoRalph
Nuzzo
dimerPhilip
Phillips
rauchfuzThomas
Rauchfuss
joaquinrJoaquín
Rodríguez-López
sarlahDavid
Sarlah
kschweizKenneth
Schweizer
jsweedleJonathan
Sweedler
vddonkWilfred
van der Donk
renskeRenske
van der Veen
vuraweisJosh
Vura-Weis
mcwhite7M.
White
sczimmerSteven
Zimmerman
beakPeter
Beak
wklemperWalter
Klemperer
jdmcdonaJ.
McDonald
pogoreloTaras
Pogorelov
mshen233Mei
Shen
dewoonDavid
Woon
wboulangWilliam
Boulanger
rxbRohit
Bhargava
qchen20Qian
Chen
jianjuncJianjun
Cheng
hy66Hong
Yang
andinomaJosé
Andino Martinez
decosteDonald
DeCoste
thhuangTina
Huang
tjhummelThomas
Hummel
dkellDavid
Kell
doctorkMichael
Koerner
marvilleKelly
Marville
crrayChristian
Ray
tlbrownTheodore
Brown
rmcoatesRobert
Coates
thdjrThom
Dunning
dykstraClifford
Dykstra
j-jonasJiri
Jonas
j-lisyJames
Lisy
shapleyJohn
Shapley
pshapleyPatricia
Shapley
zumdahl2Steven
Zumdahl
ksuslickKenneth
Suslick
jcoxJenny
Cox
sqdSean
Drummond
sheeleySarah
Sheeley
jsmaddenJoseph
Madden
cknight4Connie
Knight
schulzeHeather
Schulze
kbaumgarKeena
Finney
adkssnBeatrice
Adkisson
trabari1Katie
Trabaris
metclfKara
Metcalf
ljohnso2Lori
Johnson
lchenoweLeslie
Chenoweth
wdedoWolali
Dedo
spinnerDavid
Spinner
plblumPatricia
Simpson
stevens2Chad
Stevens
lsagekarLori
Sage-Karlson
bertholdDeborah
Berthold
kecarlsoKathryn
Carlson
sdesmondSerenity
Desmond
axelson2Jordan
Axelson
scbakerStephanie
Baker
pflotschPriscila
Falagan Lotsch
dgrayDanielle
Gray
thennes2Tom
Hennessey
holdaNancy
Holda
aibarrAlejandro
Ibarra
kimshSung Hoon
Kim
kocherg2Nikolai
Kocherginsky
philipk2Philip
Kocheril
legare2Stephanie
Legare
alewandoAgnieszka
Lewandowska
smccombiStuart
McCombie
jdm5Justin
McGlauchlen
egmooreEdwin
Moore
myerscouKathleen
Myerscough
snalla2Siva
Nalla
romanovaElena
Romanova
roubakhiStanislav
Rubakhin
shvedalxAlexander
Shved
asoudaAlexander
Soudakov
xywangXiying
Wang
kwilhelKaren
Wilhelmsen
wilkeyRandy
Wilkey
silongSilong
Zhang
schlembaMary
Schlembach
trimmellAshley
Trimmell
emccarr2Elise
McCarren
cmercierChristen
Mercier
atimpermAaron
Timperman
niesShuming
Nie
hshanHee-Sun
Han
mmgMutha
Gunasekera
kknightsKatriena
Knights
lisawLisa
Williamson
keinckKatie
Einck
kneef1Kate
Neef
txiang4Tiange
Xiang
j-hummelJohn
Hummel
i-paulIain
Paul
munjanjaLloyd
Munjanja
glnGayle
Nelsen
agerardAnna
Gerard
powerskaKimberly
Powers
lolshansLisa
Olshansky
miricaLiviu
Mirica
qingcao2Qing
Cao
lisa3Lisa
Johnson
tinalambTina
Lamb
baronpBaron
Peters
bransle2Sarah
Bransley
dylanmh2Dylan
Hamilton
raegansRaegan
Smith
apm8Angad
Mehta
leverittJohn
Leveritt
xingwXing
Wang
emillrEva
Miller
jmill24Jacqueline
Miller
jlbass2Julia
Bass
ramonarRamona
Rudzinski
tlcraneTracy
Crane
cejohnstCelia
Johnston
adlAmber
LaBau
cnsolomoCandice
Solomon-Strutz