UW CSE Colloquium: ARPA-E—Addressing the Sputniks of our Generation

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ARPA-E: Addressing the Sputniks of our Generation
Arun Majumdar (ARPA-E)

The report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” proposed the creation of ARPA-E, which was later authorized and appropriated by Congress. The report suggested ARPA-E to be modeled after DARPA, which was created in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik. It was then felt that the US had lost its technological lead. The US now faces three Sputnik-like challenges: (a) energy security; (b) US technological lead; and (c) greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In many cases, we as a nation are lagging behind and need to change course with fierce urgency. ARPA-E’s goal is to help catalyze this change by attracting the best minds to focus on the major technical challenges in this field and by stimulating technical and the entrepreneurial community to innovate on energy technologies. While ARPA-E is adopting many of the best practices from DARPA, there are key differences between the defense and energy sectors of our economy, which must be recognized in ARPA-E’s design. This talk will provide some thoughts of how we are putting its “DNA” together, and an outlook for the future.

Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy

Dr. Arun Majumdar became the first Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), the country’s only agency devoted to transformational energy research and development, in October 2009.

Prior to joining ARPA-E, Majumdar was the Associate Laboratory Director for Energy and Environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. His highly distinguished research career includes the science and engineering of energy conversion, transport, and storage ranging from molecular and nanoscale level to large energy systems. In 2005, Majumdar was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering for this pioneering work.

At Berkeley Labs and UC Berkeley, Majumdar helped shape several strategic initiatives in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy storage. He also testified before Congress on how to reduce energy consumption in buildings. Majumdar has also served on the advisory committee of the National Science Foundation’s engineering directorate, was a member of the advisory council to the materials sciences and engineering division of the Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences, and was an advisor on nanotechnology to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Additionally, Majumdar – also an entrepreneur – has served as an advisor to startup companies and venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1985 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.