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Meet David Tirrell, Caltech Provost

"To continue attracting such talented students, scholarship support is critically important—we don’t want to lose a single student because of concerns about paying for their education."

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As I was considering moving to Caltech from the University of Massachusetts 20 years ago, one of my current colleagues told me, “We’ll be disappointed if you don’t take your research to the next level once you’re here.” I soon understood the comment: the culture here expects and supports excellence. When surrounded by people doing important and exciting research, you can’t help but raise expectations for yourself. That drive, coupled with the rigor of our academics and research, inspires new ideas and pushes the boundaries of science and technology.

As I enter my second year as provost, my top priority is to ensure that we continue to attract and retain the extraordinary community of people that allows this culture to thrive.

Our commitment to unfettered exploration has helped make it possible for Caltech researchers to invent transformational technologies ranging from automated DNA sequencing to the free electron laser to LIGO. Just last month, Frances Arnold, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on the directed evolution of enzymes. She is the first woman at Caltech to win a Nobel Prize and the fifth woman ever to receive the prize in chemistry. Support from alumni is integral to the discoveries that Professor Arnold and others have made and will continue to make.

Scholarship and graduate fellowship support of individuals and unrestricted support of the Caltech Fund helps us attract the talented and ambitious students who share our resolve to answer the most dif cult questions. The continued success of discovery at Caltech relies on our ability to take chances on people whose talent, drive, and creativity have the capacity to change the world.

One such student is Damien Bérubé, who was able to come to Caltech thanks to a scholarship, and who has taken advantage of a donor-funded Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to add momentum to his studies. In order to understand science as an integrated whole, Damien built a customized interdisciplinary major called “systems studies” that blends elements of chemistry, physics, and aerospace engineering. In Damien’s words, “If I hadn’t known that Caltech would help me afford my education, I would not have applied. On a very basic level, student aid is the reason I can be here in the first place.”

To continue attracting such talented students, scholarship and graduate fellowship support is critically important—we don’t want to lose a single student because of concerns about paying for their education.

Will you please join me in making a gift to Caltech? Your support of the Caltech Fund, of scholarships, of graduate fellowships, or of the activity that matters most to you will help provide our students with the financial security they need to focus on their work at Caltech and to prepare themselves for the future.

Thank you for making Caltech a philanthropic priority.

David A. Tirrell, PhD
Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair and
Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering