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New leadership for CIFAR’s Bio-inspired Solar Energy program

by Jon Farrow Mar 16 / 20

BSE Announcement

Curtis Berlinguette and Greg Scholes become co-directors, Gabriela Schlau-Cohen appointed as associate director

The Bio-inspired Solar Energy program, founded in 2014 and renewed in 2019, brings together researchers from across disciplines to find better ways of harvesting, transporting, and storing light energy. 

CIFAR Fellow Gregory Scholes, a professor at Princeton University and CIFAR Fellow Curtis Berlinguette, a professor at the University of British Columbia, will lead the program as co-directors. CIFAR Fellow Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, an assistant professor at MIT, will be associate director.

Scholes has served as the program’s interim director since August 2019 and has been a fellow since 2015. He is a chemist who, using quantum theoretical approaches, investigates how energy flows on the scale of individual molecules. “A strength of the Bio-inspired Solar Energy program has been brainstorming at the interface of catalysis research and biological function, which has led to terrific successes in the materials domain,” says Scholes. “Moving into our next cycle, I would like to direct our discussions to generate actions and initiatives that incorporate more concepts and sophistications found in biology.” 

Berlinguette has been a fellow in the program since 2015. He is focused on accelerating the discovery and deployment of clean energy technologies, with specialties in advanced solar cells, energy storage, and CO2 utilization. “I am excited to be entering the next phase of the Bio-inspired Solar Energy program as co-director,” says Berlinguette. “There are many opportunities ahead, and I am thrilled that we have a team of excellent scholars that is positioned to answer these important questions.”

Schlau-Cohen was among the first cohort of CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars in 2016 and was appointed as a fellow in 2018. She is a physical chemist who studies the proteins that gather light in plants. “Over the past several years, CIFAR has nucleated new, and often unexpected, collaborations to investigate photophysical and chemical mechanisms behind solar energy,” says Schlau-Cohen. “We have identified critical areas in which the unique combination of expertise in this program can open up new ways to innovate rooted in biology.”

“Building on the excellent foundation that Ted Sargent built during his term as the program’s first director, I am confident that our new co-directors—Greg Scholes, Curtis Burlinguette, and Gabriela Schlau-Cohen—will take CIFAR's Bio-inspired Solar Energy program to new heights” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, CIFAR President & CEO. “These three outstanding leaders and their colleagues will advance our understanding of the catalysts required to drive useful chemical reactions from light. They will use new methods in machine learning, computational chemistry, and robotics to accelerate materials and catalyst discovery. This science will be critical to developing sustainable forms of energy to address climate change."