University of Washington Department of Bioengineering

Allan S. Hoffman Lecture


David A. Tirrell, Ph.D. Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California

Time: 3:30 pm
Date: Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 Place: Health Sciences Building, Room T-625
Reception to follow lecture, location to be announced at lecture


The genetic code, elucidated in the 1960s through the work of Nirenberg, Ochoa, Khorana and their coworkers, provides a set of molecular instructions for translating nucleic acids into proteins. Codons are assigned to amino acids through high-fidelity charging of transfer RNAs and accurate base-pairing between charged tRNAs and messenger RNA. Over the last decade, cells have been outfitted with modified translational machinery that enables the participation of an expanded set of amino acids in protein synthesis, and that allows scientists and engineers to “reinterpret” the genetic code by redefining codon assignments. These developments have fostered a more unified view of the chemistry of natural and synthetic macromolecules and provided a basis for powerful new approaches to materials design and to temporally and spatially resolved analysis of biological processes.

Speaker Biography

David A. Tirrell is the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Director of the Beckman Institute, at the California Institute of Technology. Tirrell was educated at MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he earned his Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering under the supervision of Otto Vogl. After a brief stay with Takeo Saegusa at Kyoto University, Tirrell accepted an assistant professorship in the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University in the fall of 1978. Tirrell returned to Amherst in 1984 and served as Director of the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts before moving to Caltech in 1998. He served as chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech from 1999 until 2009. Tirrell’s research interests lie in macromolecular chemistry and in the use of non-canonical amino acids to engineer and probe protein behavior. His important contributions to these fields have been recognized by his election to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About the Hoffman Lecture

The Hoffman Lecture honors UW Bioengineering’s Dr. Allan Hoffman, now in his 56th year of active research. Dr. Hoffman joined the UW faculty in 1970, when he began to synthesize polymers and hydrogels with special physical and biomedical properties. By combining these special biomaterials with drugs, enzymes and antibodies, he pioneered the applications of temperature and pH-responsive intelligent polymers and hydrogels in the fields of drug delivery, diagnostic assays, and biologically-active and non-fouling polymer surfaces. Much of this research has been carried out in collaboration with Buddy Ratner, Tom Horbett and Patrick Stayton in our Bioengineering Department. With Dr. Buddy Ratner, Dr, Hoffman is a co-editor of the “Textbook of Biomaterials Science,” now in its third edition.

A few of Dr. Hoffman’s awards and recognitions include election as President of the Society for Biomaterials in 1983; receipt of the Founders’ Awards from the Society for Biomaterials in 2000 and from the Controlled Release Society in 2007; election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005–he is one of five members of our department who have been elected to the NAE. Dr. Hoffman takes great pride in being an international “ambassador for biomaterials” as he continues very actively to lecture and teach short courses at UW and around the world.

For more information contact Ms. Shirley Nollette (206) 685-2002 or