Presenting the Next Generation of Sustainable Research

Up-and-coming researchers from across the country will gather at Caltech's Ramo Auditorium on September 12 for the first-ever Resnick Young Investigators Symposium, an event aimed at spurring collaboration and innovation among scientists and engineers interested in sustainability.

The event, hosted by the Resnick Sustainability Institute, will feature addresses from researchers at Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Washington in an effort to spotlight work that will have a long-term impact on sustainability.

"Our mission is to foster transformational advances in energy and sustainability science through research education and communication, and the symposium is a direct way to educate and communicate with the campus and others that attend about the great potential for new science and technology to change the world," says Neil Fromer, executive director of the Resnick Institute.

An introduction by Jonas Peters, Bren Professor of Chemistry and director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, will kick off the symposium. After Peters, the speakers will be:

  • Brandi Cossairt of the University of Washington, discussing efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions through photochemical and catalytic transformations;
  • Hemamala Karunadasa of Stanford University, presenting new materials that show promise for the creation of low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells without the toxicity and instability of current thin-film technologies;
  • Sally Thompson of UC Berkeley, describing how managed wildfires can improve a forest's resilience to drought and unplanned fires;
  • Na (Lina) Li of Harvard University, presenting strategies to cope with the challenges posed by the changing nature of the power grid in an era of residential solar panels and electric vehicles;
  • and Xiaolin Zheng of Stanford University, explaining efforts to engineer nanomaterials to improve the performance of energy conversion devices.

Each of the five visiting speakers will be hosted by a Resnick Fellow—a graduate research fellow or postdoctoral scholar who is based at the Resnick Sustainability Institute who will provide a tour of campus and its facilities, and facilitate introductions to colleagues in related fields.

The Resnick Young Investigators Symposium will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 12. Details can be found online at

At the event, Peters will announce the winner of this year's Resonate Award, to be presented in a private reception at the Athenaeum following the symposium. Founded in 2013, the Resonate Award draws attention to researchers early in their careers who are tackling sustainability-related research challenges.

Last year's winners included Yi Cui of Stanford University, who is developing nanomaterials for use in batteries; Joel Dawson of Eta Devices, Inc., whose work on mobile power architecture is improving the efficiency of cellular communications; and Tsutomu Ioroi of the Osaka National Research Institute, whose improvements to near-zero-emissions polymer electrolyte fuel cells made the technology commercially viable.

Written by Robert Perkins