Jay Whitcare brings his experience in energy research and business development as the new director of Scott Institute

Materials Science and Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy Professor Jay Whitacre will be made director of the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. Whitacre will officially take over the position on May 1 from Jared Cohon, the president emeritus and Professor of Engineering and Public Policy and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Whitacre has been part of the Carnegie Mellon community since 2007, when he left the Jet Propulsion Laboratory after investigating how materials and devices could be utilized for electrochemical energy storage and conversion. Once at Carnegie Mellon, Whitacre created a new kind of battery chemistry and model that contained both non-flammable and non-toxic chemicals. This battery became the central point for the energy storage company Aquion Energy that Whitacre started in 2009.

Additionally, Whitacre has been a member of numerous boards of energy technology companies and has been part of committees for the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Whitacre was also honored with the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 2015 for creating the environmentally friendly battery that was the first of its kind.

“In today’s energy-constrained world, it is more important than ever for Carnegie Mellon to remain on the cutting-edge of research, education, and innovation in energy technology and policy,” Provost Farnam Jahanian said in a university press release. “Bringing Jay’s wealth of experience in energy research and business development to the Scott Institute will ensure Carnegie Mellon continues to play a leadership role in this key strategic area.”

In 2012, the Scott Institute was founded with the intention of facilitating and encouraging scientific research that would increase energy efficiency, make improvements in energy policies and technologies, and search for possible energy sources. By adding Whitacre as the director of the Institute, the Scott Institute hopes to have a greater relationship with corporations that will ensure the University’s contribution to the area.

“I decided that this was a good time to pass the directorship of the Scott Institute to the next generation of emerging faculty leaders,” Jared Cohon said. “We have created a firm foundation of programs and staff on which real progress and growth can be built, and I think Professor Whitacre is an outstanding choice to lead the institute into its exciting future.”

Cohon became the director of the Scott Institute after taking over the position from M. Granger Morgan, its first director. Morgan’s vision for the institute was to relate Carnegie Mellon’s research to public policy.

“There are over 130 professors now listed as affiliates of the institute, either by research, academic or other energy-related activities at Carnegie Mellon,” Whitacre said. “Generating new bodies of collaborators that are creating top-notch results, and bringing in funding as free-standing entities — that is a large part of the institute’s mission: To be a hub for that kind of initial collaboration.”
Under Cohon’s watch, the Scott Institute became the impactful research center that Whitacre will be taking over.

“On behalf of the campus community and stakeholders affiliated with the Scott Institute, I would like to thank Jared Cohon for his invaluable contributions and tireless work toward putting the institute on the path to a bright future,” Dean of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering James H. Garrett Jr. said. “We wish him the best as he returns to focusing all of his attention on his faculty duties.”