Carnegie Mellon University
February 28, 2020

Commemorative Journal Issue Honors Krzysztof Matyjaszewski's Pioneering Career

By Ben Panko

A recent issue of the Journal of Polymer Science was dedicated to the achievements and impact of Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, the J.C. Warner Professor of Natural Sciences and director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Macromolecular Engineering, for his 70th birthday.

The issue collects more than 25 papers on polymer science and engineering from Matyjaszewski's colleagues, collaborators and some of the hundreds of students and postdoctoral associates that have come through his Carnegie Mellon lab in the past 35 years.

"He has changed the face of polymer chemistry and materials science," said Nicolay Tsarevsky, an associate professor at Southern Methodist University. Tsarevsky was one of five proteges of Matyjaszewski who served as a guest editor for the issue. "He's loved and admired by many and that's why so many people wanted to contribute."

Matyjaszewski is known for discovering atom transfer radical polymerization, a technique for polymer synthesis that allows scientists to precisely link monomers and create a wide range of materials. His numerous awards and honors include the American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the Franklin Institute Award in Chemistry and membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Tsarevsky distinctly remembers how he started working with Matyjaszewski 20 years ago — by sending him an email out of the blue. Matyjaszewski responded immediately and offered to meet the young Eastern European graduate student at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

"This is one of the biggest scientists in the world in the polymer field," Tsarevsky said. "And yet, he found the time to respond to little me and made me feel special and wanted."

Tsarevsky also noted the serendipity of Matyjaszewski's 70th birthday coinciding with the 100th anniversary of macromolecular science. In the latest issue of the journal Progress in Polymer Science, which Matyjaszewski edits, he joined University Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Polymer Science Guy Berry and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Michael Bockstaller to mark that milestone.

"The biggest thing that he's instilled in us is a passion for doing innovative chemistry," said Jeffrey Pyun, a professor at the University of Arizona and another guest editor of the Journal of Polymer Science issue. That passion was inspired by Matyjaszewski's work ethic, he noted, remembering that the professor was always the first in and last to leave the lab every day.

"There was nobody who was more dedicated and worked harder than him," Pyun said.