Yi Cui to lead Sustainability Accelerator; Roland Horne named interim Precourt Institute director
Cui has been leading both the Sustainability Accelerator and the Precourt Institute for Energy since April. With Horne transitioning to interim director of the Precourt Institute, Cui will continue engaging with the accelerator’s efforts to generate potentially scalable solutions for global sustainability challenges.
Starting Dec. 1, Yi Cui’s leadership focus at Stanford University will be on directing the Sustainability Accelerator at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, and he will step down as director of the school’s Precourt Institute for Energy. Roland Horne, professor of energy science and engineering, will serve as interim director of the Precourt Institute until a replacement director is selected.
The Precourt Institute’s vision is sustainable, affordable, secure energy for all, with a focus on leveraging the research of Stanford faculty to examine and influence how energy can impact the economy, environment, and national security. Within the Doerr School of Sustainability, Precourt and the Woods Institute for the Environment together provide connective tissue across the Stanford campus to bring faculty, students, and staff to conduct research that bridges disciplines to generate new ideas and innovations.
The Sustainability Accelerator serves as a launchpad to leverage knowledge and expertise at Stanford and co-develop potentially scalable sustainability technology and policy solutions with external partners worldwide. The accelerator recently launched its first Flagship Destination – to help remove gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – and it will be adding several additional Flagship Destinations in the coming months. Each will be an ambitious and aspirational target that has the potential for impact on a global scale.
“The school’s progress on discovery, innovation, and impact rests on the three pillars: our academic departments, the institutes, and the Sustainability Accelerator,” said Dean Arun Majumdar. “Just as Yi led as director of the institute, the next Precourt director will play a leadership role on energy research at Stanford which has the potential to make global impact.”
Cui, who has been director of the Precourt Institute since January 2020, took on the role of inaugural Sustainability Accelerator director in April 2023. A faculty search committee led by Sally Benson is actively seeking to identify a new director for the institute. Suggestions for candidates may be submitted to the Precourt Institute for Energy director search survey.
“I notably want to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of Yi, as the Precourt director, thank Roland for his willingness to serve as interim director and Sally for leading the search effort,” Majumdar added.
During his tenure leading the Precourt Institute, Cui launched the Precourt Pioneering Projects grants, a new Stanford Energy Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Stanford Hydrogen Initiative, and with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory he launched the joint SLAC-Stanford Battery Center. His research focuses on the fundamentals of nanomaterials and their applications in batteries, catalysts, wearables, carbon capture, mineral extraction, and environmental technology. He has founded five companies to commercialize technologies developed by his research group.
By transitioning his leadership to the accelerator, Cui will bring his entrepreneurial experience to the challenge of scaling new solutions for the world.
“I am grateful that Roland is stepping up as the interim director. His deep knowledge in energy and leadership skills will continue strengthening the Precourt Institute,” Cui said. “The accelerator will need my dedicated effort to build up the team and infrastructure, ramp up Flagship Destination programs, and engage external partners to translate solutions.”
Cui is leading development of the Sustainability Accelerator’s global network of partners, grant making, project mentorship, strategic planning, and more. He will collaborate with an executive director, for whom a search will launch soon.
As the main hub for collaborative energy research at Stanford, the Precourt Institute supports a host of initiatives and centers that fund energy research and education, and help translate Stanford sustainability research for deployment in the world. The institute engages energy sector stakeholders and will also help the accelerator achieve its energy-focused Flagship Destinations.
Horne, whose research spans well-test interpretation and geothermal energy, has received numerous awards and honors over his decades at Stanford. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and was the president of the International Geothermal Association 2010 to 2013.
In addition to being important to the university, Horne said the Precourt Institute is significant to him personally.
“I was involved in the informal ‘energy committee’ that gathered more than 20 years ago, out of which the Energy Institute and ultimately the Precourt Institute for Energy grew,” Horne said. “Precourt serves the university by creating a community of scholars and researchers to share their energy ideas from disparate viewpoints.”
Energy science and engineering’s Benson, chair of the search for a permanent director, served as co-director of the Precourt Institute from 2014 to 2020. The search committee includes Mohammad Akbarpour, Matteo Cargnello, Chris Field, Stephan Graham, Steven Koonin, James Landay, Hongbin Li, Simona Onori, Richard Sassoon, Zhi-Xun Shen, and Deborah Sivas. For more information, please visit the search committee website.
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