Tim Swager

Faculty Director

Dr. Timothy M. Swager is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at MIT and the Faculty Director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. In this latter role, Tim works with the Center’s Executive Director to define the Center’s strategy for fostering innovation, assists with the commercialization of MIT technologies, and plays a key role in the grant selection process. Tim also serves as the Center’s liaison to the MIT academic community and senior leadership, sitting on faculty and academic committees. Tim is the founder of four companies — DyNuPol, Iptyx, PolyJoule, and C¬2 Sense — and has served on a number of corporate and government boards.

Tim’s research interests are in design, synthesis, and study of organic-based electronic, sensory, high-strength and liquid crystalline materials. His liquid crystal designs demonstrated shape complementarity to generate specific interactions between molecules and includes fundamental mechanisms for increasing liquid crystal order by a new mechanism referred to as minimization of free volume. Tim's research in electronic polymers has been mainly directed at the demonstration of new conceptual approaches to the construction of sensory materials. These methods are the basis of the FidoTM explosives detectors (FLIR Systems Inc), which have the highest sensitivity of any explosives sensor. Other areas actively investigated by the Swager group include radicals for dynamic nuclear polarization, applications of nano-carbon materials, organic photovoltaic materials, polymer actuators, and luminescent molecular probes for medical diagnostics.

Tim's honors include: Election to the National Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Doctorate from Montana State University, the Lemelson-MIT Award for Invention and Innovation, Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, The Christopher Columbus Foundation Homeland Security Award, and The Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award (ACS). He has published more than 350 peer-reviewed papers and more than 50 issued/pending patents.

He received a BS from Montana State University, and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. A native of Montana, Tim had plans to become a rancher. Instead, following his postdoctoral appointment at MIT, he joined the chemistry faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, returning to MIT in 1996 as a Professor of Chemistry and served as the Head of Chemistry from 2005-2010.