West Campus welcomes newest institute

Gary Brudvig, the Benjamin Silliman Professor of Chemistry and professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, was appointed last week as the director of Yale’s new Energy Sciences Institute.

The institute is the sixth such group added to Yale’s West Campus, and represents the newest leg of the University’s push in sustainability science. As part of the institute’s opening, Brudvig said he is looking not simply to move current faculty to West Campus, but to also hire new researchers. Although the facility opened earlier this month, Brudvig is still filling out his ranks in order to get projects started.

Gary Brudvig
Gary Brudvig

“I am most excited to bring in 10 new faculty members in the energy area,” Brudvig said. “It is great for the University and will help to build a critical mass of faculty working in this area to Yale.”

By bringing in new staff, Brudvig said he hopes to also bring in new ideas, perspectives and research opportunities, all key ingredients to the collaborative science mission of West Campus. While the emphasis of the Energy and Sciences Institute is research in energy storage, conservation and conversion, it is also part of a larger initiative to promote interdisciplinary research at Yale.

“The institutes are independent, but we are hoping some of the faculty of the various institutes will have overlapping interests so that collaboration can take place,” Brudvig said. “The focus of West Campus is on interdisciplinary research.”

The West Campus institutes generally represent the “cross-pollination of ideas and disciplines,” according to chemistry professor Jason Crawford. He added that the multi-institute model will succeed by “drawing upon strengths collectively.”

Three researchers interviewed by the News said they are hopeful that collaboration will take place between the West Campus institutes, but they are also enthusiastic about the amount of interdisciplinary research that will go on under the auspices of the Energy Sciences Institute. Engineering faculty will regularly work with physical scientists, chemists, geologists, applied physicists and other experts to tackle some of the most challenging energy problems of the day, according to the institute’s website.

“I think the new Energy Sciences Institute on West Campus will be a focal point for scientific research on energy conversion at Yale,” said electrical engineering professor Larry Lee. “The opportunity to recruit some new junior and senior faculty that will be able to broaden and deepen the quality and quantity of research on energy conversion at Yale is exciting.”

By occupying the same facility as the Chemical Biology, Cancer Biology, Nanobiology, Systems Biology and Microbial Diversity institutes, the new Energy Sciences Institute hopes to bring in experienced researchers to work on groundbreaking solutions to contemporary energy problems, Brudvig said.

While the Energy Sciences Institute is not yet fully staffed, it will eventually focus on developing new technologies for energy production and storage as well as innovations in solar energy, alternative fuels and carbon mitigation, Brudvig said.

Purchased in 2007, West Campus is a 136-acre former Bayer facility with 1.6 million square feet of research space.

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