Baron Peters and Bill Hammack named Lycan Professors


The School of Chemical Sciences has announced the appointment of three new William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professors: William Hammack and Baron Peters in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Liviu Mirica in the Department of Chemistry.

“Bill, Liviu, and Baron join a superlative group of dedicated colleagues that we honor with named positions, including Gregory Girolami, our other current Lycan Professor,” said Dr. Jonathan Sweedler, director of the School of Chemical Sciences, in the announcement. The named appointments recognize the school’s collective commitment to excellence in scholarly pursuits.

Investitures are being planned for later this year.

Bill Hammack

William (Bill) Hammack
William (Bill) Hammack

Professor Hammack graduated from Michigan Technological University with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1984. He earned his MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1986 and 1988. He joined the Illinois faculty in 1997.

Dr. Hammack’s scholarly efforts are in the areas of teaching and public outreach. He has excelled over the years, especially in the area of outreach to the general public. He continues to be one of the most listened to and most watched engineering educators in history. From the moment he arrived on campus in 1998, he has pioneered new areas of communicating science and engineering to the general public, and expanded the role of an engineering professor. In 1999, he plowed new ground by creating a unique radio series that shares the hows and whys of engineering to the public. He next pioneered the use of new media, specifically videos accompanied by books, to communicate engineering directly to the public. He created a YouTube channel that currently has over 700K subscribers and nearly 40 million views. The book associated with the YouTube channel, Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, was a bestselling technology book on Amazon. In the classroom he has had an equally pioneering career. His course, CHBE 101: The Hidden World of Engineering, is taught to a diverse mix of students majoring in commerce, architecture, photography, history, and graphic arts. He has also contributed deeply to the engineering profession. His book, Why Engineers Need to Grow a Long Tail, laid out for the engineering profession how to chart a path through the world of “new” or “social” media. In it he shows how the engineers can use new media to reach larger audiences, but also how to aim the message straight at the next generation of potential engineers.

Baron Peters

Baron Peters, William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor
Baron Peters, William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor

Professor Peters graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1999, with a BS in Mathematics and Chemical Engineering. He earned a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. He completed postdoctoral research at MIT from 2004 to 2006 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Ecole Normale Superieure from 2006 to 2007. He joined the Illinois faculty in January 2019.

Dr. Peters’ research includes developing fundamental new methods in rare events modeling to understand catalytic and chemical reaction pathways. He studies reactions between charged species in solution, which is an open and fertile area of research with key applications to energy and the food/water nexus. He specifically aims to understand whether a single universal solvent reaction coordinate (e.g., a unifying theme) can be applied to reactions involving charge transfer with atoms in fixed positions, atom migration with fixed charges, and coupled charge transfer and atom migration. In a second area, he studies nucleation and growth using simulations that accurately capture multiple species including solutes, solvents, surfactants, and nucleants. This is a general platform that can be broadly applied to a wide array of value-added products in the chemical industry.

Liviu Mirica

Professor Mirica graduated from California Institute of Technology with a BS in Chemistry in 1999. He earned a PhD in Chemistry from Stanford University in 2005. He held an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, from 2005 to 2008, and joined the Illinois faculty in January 2019.

Liviu is a leader at the junction of inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry.  Trained at top chemistry peer institutions, he has a world-class pedigree with emphasis on the activation of oxygen by metals to bond to carbon, a topic relevant to fuel cells, where activated oxygen burns methanol to create electrical energy.  He is a leader in renewable energy projects. Mirica has developed new biology-inspired ligands that bind metal ions (nickel, palladium, copper), forcing upon them unusual structures with therapeutic properties against amyloid diseases. He is a leader in the field of understanding how metal ions interact with amyloids, aggregates of misfolded proteins that form plaques in neurodegenerative diseases. He launched a vibrant program at Washington University at St. Louis, as manifested by external funding from NSF, DOE, and NIH, and shares our vision that chemical synthesis has the most impact if implemented without regard to traditional boundaries that have previously separated inorganic and organic chemistry.