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  • Theresa Reineke

    Reineke receives Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

Professor Theresa Reineke has received the University of Minnesota’s 2017 Distinguished McKnight University Professorship. 

This professorship recognizes and rewards the university's most outstanding mid-career faculty members. Recipients are honored with the title, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, which they hold for as long as they remain at the University of Minnesota, and receive a grant of $100,000 that can be used to support their scholarly activities. Reineke will be recognized at a Board of Regents meeting, May 11-12, and at an awards reception and dinner, Tuesday, May 9.

Professor Reineke was chosen based on the level of distinction and prestige that her scholarly work brings to the university; the merit of her achievements and the potential for greater attainment in the field; the dimension of her national and international reputation, including leadership efforts in interdisciplinary and collaborative initiatives; the extent to which her work and reputation are identified with the University of Minnesota; the quality of her teaching and advising; and her contributions to the wider community. She excels in all of those areas.

Specifically, Reineke was lauded for her outstanding and transformative research contributions to the field of polymeric materials chemistry; superb leadership in innovative and collaborative research teams across the University of Minnesota campus that have garnered large government and industrial support; excellent track record of entrepreneurship and technology licensing; and extraordinary teaching and service activities to her field, the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), and the Department of Chemistry that have brought renown to the University of Minnesota.

“Professor Reineke has brought great recognition to the University through her exceptional research, teaching, and service,” said Professor William Tolman, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “She is an exceptional faculty member whose star continues to rise.”

She joined the Department of Chemistry faculty in 2011. where she has become a leader in a number of collaborative teams across the University campus. These include a Minnesota Innovation Partnership with Dow Chemical Company, for which she is principal investigator, and two National Science Foundation centers—the Center for Sustainable Polymers, and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. She leads one of MRSEC’s interdisciplinary research groups, Hierarchical Macromolecular Materials, that is composed of 14 post-doctorate and graduate student researchers and eight faculty members from three CSE departments.

Professor Theresa Reineke in her lab.
Photo courtesy University of Minnesota.

Reineke’s research is focused on improving human health and the environment through pioneering contributions to the field of polymer chemistry. Her research has enabled fundamental and applied technology advancements in three areas: polymer-based biomolecule delivery systems for treatment of genetic disease; enhancing oral delivery of important drugs with polymer-based delivery systems; and sustainable and environmentally friendly polymers/plastics from naturally occurring chemicals derived from plants.

Reineke has also contributed significant service to her field. She is a founding associate editor of ACS MacroLetters and has served on several committees for the American Chemical Society and the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy. At the University of Minnesota, she serves as chair of the College of Science & Engineering’s Consultative Committee, is the founding faculty adviser for the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry and Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering UMN student chapter. Because of her commitment to diversity, she has co-organized several retreats and workshops for women faculty, post-doctorates, and graduate students. Reineke is also an outstanding teacher and mentor, teaching courses in nanotechnology and polymer chemistry, and a laboratory course in polymer synthesis.

Reineke has received a number of prestigious honors, including the Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award (2017); the Sara Evans Faculty Woman Scholar/Leader Award from the University of Minnesota (2016); the George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Research from the University of Minnesota (2016); inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2016); and American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy’s Outstanding Young Investigator Award (2012).

She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, her master’s degree from Arizona State University, and her doctorate from the University of Michigan. She was a National Institutes of Health Post-doctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, Reineke worked at Upsher-Smith Pharmaceuticals, and began her academia career at the University of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech.

The Department of Chemistry holds 13 Distinguished McKnight University Professorships—more than any other department at the University of Minnesota. Current faculty members who also have received this high distinction include George Barany, Christopher Cramer, Mark Distefano, Laura Gagliardi, Timothy Lodge, Marc Hillmyer, J. Ilja Siepmann, Andreas Stein, and William Tolman.