Professor Emily Carter, Founding Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Professor Emily Carter, Founding Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Professor Emily Carter, Founding Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Although the physical foundations of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment are still being laid, the center’s work has begun in earnest, thanks, in no small measure, to the talent and passion of its founding director, physical chemist and the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment Emily Carter. I have invited Emily, who joined our faculty in 2004, to share her aspirations for the center with you, along with some of the steps that she and her colleagues are taking to fulfill its crucial mandate. — S.M.T.

One hundred years from now, I hope it will be said that Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment led the way in training generations of thought leaders, scientists, and engineers who furnished solutions that helped to save the planet from the worst ravages of global climate change. As founding director of the Andlinger Center, I aim at nothing less. Beyond the potentially existential threat of global warming, I see two other imperatives driving the work of the center: national security and economic competitiveness. We need to be in control of our own energy destiny, whether it is fuel for our military aircraft or power generation right here at home. Whatever your perspective, these are three compelling reasons why we must revolutionize the way we harvest, convert, store, transmit, and use energy, as well as mitigate harm done to the environment through its use. It will take multidisciplinary teams, working with partners at other academic institutions and in industry, nonprofits, and government, to define, discover, and implement the technological, economic, and policy solutions required. And what better place than Princeton, the best place on Earth to perform integrated multidisciplinary research and education, to achieve these ambitious goals? What follows is a taste of how we have begun this journey. I’d venture to say we are on our way.

The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment was founded in 2008 by virtue of the extraordinary generosity of Gerhard (Gerry) R. Andlinger ’52, who exemplifies how a Princeton education can transform a life. Gerry came as a scholarship student and built a shining career, first at ITT and then in his own firm, where he made pioneering investments in alternative energy. He recognized this field as the key to securing the future for generations to come, and thus saw giving back to Princeton as a profound way to kick-start an effort that is truly “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” His gift galvanized the Princeton community to take a new look at this global imperative.

As the center’s stunning new home—designed by architects Tod Williams ’65 *67 and Billie Tsien—emerges at the corner of Olden and Prospect, our portfolio of activities is growing rapidly. We are awarding seed funding to support the best and most exciting of many high-risk/high-payoff ideas proposed by faculty. Through the leadership of the Andlinger Center’s Associate Director, Lynn Loo *01, and the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, we’ve established partnerships with PSEG, DuPont, and Lockheed-Martin to translate discoveries made here at Princeton into practice. Cross-fertilization also defines the Highlight Seminar Series, which brings to campus world leaders in all aspects of energy science, technology, economics, and policy.

On the education front, I am particularly proud of the new Energy track of the Technology and Society certificate created in partnership with the Keller Center. This track will teach humanities and social science students about the benefits and pitfalls of various energy technologies and their impact on society and on the environment. Another, more technical certificate, offered by the Program in Sustainable Energy, is geared toward scientists and engineers. Both initiatives aim to produce future leaders and decision-makers well-versed in these intertwined issues.

At the heart of any enterprise are the people. In addition to building a first-rate administrative staff, a committed faculty executive committee, and a stellar advisory council, we have secured the first three of nine new joint faculty. Energy storage whiz Daniel Steingart was first to arrive; solar cell guru Barry Rand *07 and green cement/carbon sequestration expert Claire White will be with us for the fall. I am also grateful to Kenan Visiting Professor Daniel Giammar, who is teaching “Environmental Implications of Energy Technologies.” The enrollment of 76 (!) students illustrates the soaring interest that the next generation has in these issues. And Michael Schwartz *76, our first Gerhard R. Andlinger Visiting Professor, is teaching an advanced course in energy policy, bringing in leading lights from industry and government to provide their perspectives.

Students have been making their mark as well. Josephine Elia, our inaugural Maeder graduate fellow, and 12 undergraduates awarded Lewis summer internships have worked with faculty across the campus on projects ranging from the environmentally safe cleanup of drinking water to next-generation wind turbines. Christina Chang ’12, a veteran of our inaugural class of Lewis interns, was so inspired by her experience that she is in the United Kingdom as a Marshall Scholar pursuing a graduate degree in sustainable energy futures.

It warms my heart to see the palpable enthusiasm of the extended Princeton family for the mission of the Andlinger Center; we have an enormous task ahead of us, but I am certain that together, with all of us doing what we can, we will indeed accomplish what is required to preserve our lives by preserving the planet.