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Accomplished scientist named president of University of Chicago

Paul Alivisatos is also an alumnus from the class of 1981.

Paul Alivisatos was elected the next president of the University of Chicago.
Paul Alivisatos
University of Chicago

The University of Chicago has picked Paul Alivisatos to be its next president.

Alivisatos, 61, is leaving his position as executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley and will take over Sept. 1, the university announced Friday.

Alivisatos was born in Chicago before moving to Greece with his family as a child.

Alivisatos received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1981 from the University of Chicago and will be only the second alum to serve as president in the school’s 130-year history.

“He has the vision to further elevate the university’s eminence, uphold its rich traditions and enduring values, and make an impact on higher education and the lives of university students, faculty and staff, as well as enrich the South Side community,” Joseph Neubauer, chair of the university’s board of trustees, said in a statement issued by the school.

Alivisatos is a professor and the Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research in the Department of Chemistry and the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“I am honored for this opportunity to lead the distinctive intellectual community at the University of Chicago, a special place that was so transformative in my early education and guided me throughout my academic career,” Alivisatos said. “I look forward to partnering with members of our campus and South Side communities, who are so integral to the university’s role as a great research university in one of the world’s greatest cities.”

A scientist and entrepreneur, Alivisatos has made pioneering research breakthroughs in nanomaterials. His inventions are widely used in biomedicine and QLED TV displays.

His scientific advances have yielded more than 50 patents. He also founded two prominent nanotechnology companies: Nanosys Inc. and Quantum Dot Corp., which is now part of Thermo Fisher.

As director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2009 to 2016, Alivisatos guided the U.S. Department of Energy lab through a period of change, creating new programs in biosciences, renewable energy and entrepreneurship. From 2016 to 2017, he served as Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research, fostering greater interdisciplinary faculty research and strengthening opportunities for undergraduate research.

Alivisatos earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986. He joined the Berkeley faculty in 1988 as an assistant professor, was appointed associate professor in 1993 and professor in 1995.

Alivisatos was elected president at a meeting Thursday of the University of Chicago’s board of trustees.

He will succeed Robert J. Zimmer, who has served as president since 2006. Zimmer will transition into a new role as chancellor on Sept. 1.

Alivisatos is married to Nicole Alivisatos, a retired chemist and former editor of the journal Nano Letters.