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Director’s Message

Headshot of Claire Gmachl

Claire F. Gmachl

Interim Director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering; Head of Whitman College

“As an ever-growing center, we continue to build momentum and make meaningful progress toward improving the world and the situations of the people who inhabit it.”

2022–2023 Director’s Message

This past year has marked incredible progress toward a sustainable future. From the landmark passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a most ambitious piece of climate policy for the U.S., to global efforts surrounding hydrogen infrastructure development, the world is increasingly mobilizing around energy and environmental solutions to form a united front against the existential threat of the climate crisis. As climate action finally begins to enjoy mainstream support, the question we are answering at the Andlinger Center is no longer how to create momentum around clean energy development, but instead revolves around how best to direct that momentum for maximum impact.

Since taking on the role of the Andlinger Center’s interim director in 2021, I have had the privilege to see, firsthand, the breakthrough research that its faculty are pursuing across disciplines. The energy systems models developed by Jesse Jenkins are routinely cited by White House officials, who are using them to shape national climate policies. The cutting-edge energy materials research led by Kelsey Hatzell has unlocked critical advances for technologies, such as solid-state batteries, that could play a central role in future energy systems. And collaborative work led by Z. Jason Ren is providing crucial information for updating greenhouse gas inventories in the wastewater treatment sector, to name only a few highlights.

This year, I was also fortunate enough to foster the Andlinger Center’s growth as we recruited two new assistant professors, Ryan Kingsbury and Wei Peng. Professor Kingsbury will work to engineer better ion-selective membranes, complementing and deepening the Andlinger Center’s expertise in industrial decarbonization. Professor Peng will unite Princeton’s dynamic ecosystem of political and social scientists, engineers, and biologists to develop energy systems models that are informed by socio-political insights.

And yet, breakthrough research alone will not solve the climate crisis. Cutting global carbon emissions at the rate and scale we need to minimize climate warming will require unprecedented levels of coordination between researchers, policymakers, and industry experts. As such, our E-ffiliates program has grown this year to include important players and promising startups working in the clean energy technology and policy space, the transportation sector, and the burgeoning fusion industry. In addition, Princeton has made a bold investment in a sustainable future through the establishment of the Energy Research Fund, which is catalyzing collaborations between innovative researchers across Princeton and the Andlinger Center and the industry partners who can put our energy and environmental solutions into practice.

As we strive to develop technological breakthroughs, inform critical climate policies, and forge long-lasting partnerships, it is imperative that we never lose sight of our end goal. Everything we accomplish at the Andlinger Center is in the pursuit of a sustainable shared future, one in which we are not merely working to repair previous energy and environmental harm, but in which people and the planet are able to thrive together. In 2023, we welcomed 31 summer interns — our largest group to date. Hand-in-hand with Princeton’s incredibly gifted network of faculty, researchers, and students, they have tackled timely energy and environmental challenges to build a healthy planet that they and future generations will inherit.

As an ever-growing center, we continue to build momentum and make meaningful progress toward improving the world and the situations of the people who inhabit it. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to serve as interim director of the Andlinger Center for these past two years, and I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have seen the power of brilliant minds coming together to solve the interdisciplinary energy and environmental challenges facing our planet.

After leading a rigorous international search, I am pleased to announce that Iain McCulloch, Professor of Polymer Chemistry at the University of Oxford, will take over as the new director of the Andlinger Center beginning in January 2024. He will also join the faculty at Princeton as a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Professor McCulloch has revolutionized the field of solar cell research and has made key advances in the field of photocatalysis. I am eager to see the strides that the Andlinger Center will take with Professor McCulloch at the helm, and I end my time as interim director of the Andlinger Center knowing that I am leaving it in most capable hands.

– Claire F. Gmachl