The Center for Energy in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received a $22 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, one of the largest private foundation grants in Pitt’s history. The gift will accelerate the research and education efforts of the center, which is dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability through the work of more than 70 faculty members and their research teams.

“This region and its citizens have benefited from the transformational impact of the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s philanthropy for more than 60 years,” says Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. “The foundation’s well-targeted investments in education, conservation, and healthcare, among many other areas, have strengthened Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy and improved the quality of life in our home community. We at Pitt are deeply grateful for this most recent extraordinarily generous gift from an internationally renowned philanthropic institution that continues to dedicate private support to the public good. Finding ways to deal more effectively with a wide range of energy issues has become both a national priority and a key to regional prosperity. With the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, our Center for Energy is well positioned to contribute to our shared progress in this important area.”

The majority of the Richard King Mellon grant will be used to create new faculty positions and graduate fellowships and to establish a fund for spurring innovative research. The grant, which also will support research infrastructure and center operations, is designed to bolster the center’s position as a powerful leader in energy research. “The level of our investment reflects our confidence in the academic and administrative leadership of the University,” says Scott Izzo, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “The center has tremendous potential to make an impact in Pittsburgh, as energy will be the major driver of our regional economy for years to come.”

“After graduating from Pitt’s engineering school, I immediately went to work for Westinghouse and credit much of my success over the course of a long career in the energy industry to the education I received at Pitt,” said Stephen Tritch (ENG ’71, KGSB ’77), chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “As President and CEO of Westinghouse, I came to more fully appreciate the broader impact of the University, both in developing a well educated work force and as a powerful research partner. The fact that Pitt re-invested in nuclear engineering, a field that most engineering schools had largely abandoned, was an important factor in the decision by Westinghouse to build its new corporate headquarters in Southwestern Pennsylvania, rather than relocating to another part of the country. This remarkably generous grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help position Pitt to expand its energy programs in ways that also will advance this region’s strong and growing energy industry.”

 “Energy will be the defining technical, social, and political issue of the next century,” says Gerald Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “While there are enormous pressures to reduce energy consumption, there will continue to be significant growth in the worldwide demand for energy. The gap between energy consumption and energy production must be met by advances in energy-related technologies, improvements in energy efficiencies, diversification of energy sources to reduce the impact of carbon-based fuels, and training of the scientific and engineering workforce to create the technologies that will address these issues. In that environment, the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy is committed to building from its current strengths to be an internationally prominent, university-based energy program, continuing the University’s and the Swanson School’s 100-year tradition of energy-related research.”

Established in 2008, Pitt’s Center for Energy is dedicated to pursuing studies in energy delivery and efficiency, advanced materials for demanding energy technologies, carbon management, and energy diversification. “With this funding, we will be in a much better position to attract top-notch faculty and students to our region,” says Center for Energy Director Brian Gleeson, the Harry S. Tack Chair in Materials Science and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in the Swanson School. “This will advance our creative and productive partnerships with regional and national companies, and with national laboratories, particularly our region’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).”

According to NETL Director Anthony Cugini, NETL has enjoyed a particularly strong collaborative partnership with Pitt’s Center for Energy. “NETL is charged with advancing energy options to fuel our economy, strengthen our security, and improve our environment,” says Cugini. “We are a proactive supporter of educational initiatives at all levels, funding hundreds of research and development projects at U.S. universities to advance energy science and technology and provide a trained workforce for the energy industry of the future. Pitt and the Center for Energy are among our most active collaborative partners in this effort.”   

Expanding on the impact of the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s gift, Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development says, “Pittsburgh is the new center of innovation in American energy. This region is implementing a new model for collaboration across business, government, and academia to maximize its competitive advantages in energy and related industries. Pitt’s Center for Energy has played a key role in these efforts, and we applaud the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s investment in enhancing the University’s capabilities.”

To date, the Swanson School and University of Pittsburgh have invested $50 million in facilities and programs, and faculty members in energy-related disciplines have attracted more than $35 million in sponsored research. Funds from the Richard King Mellon Foundation grant will be payable over three years.

Established in 2008, the Center for Energy is dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability, including energy delivery and efficiency, advanced materials for demanding energy technologies, carbon management and utilization, and energy diversification. Joining the Center for Energy is a team of more than 70 faculty members already working in energy research from the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Geology, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for the purpose of leveraging their work and expertise. The Center for Energy’s key goals include attracting more world-class faculty to Pitt, training high-level engineers and scientists to work in key areas of energy research, facilitating technology transfer related to energy for economic development, increasing energy support, and raising the stature of our region as a leader in energy.

For more than 60 years, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has invested in the competitive future and quality of life in Southwestern Pennsylvania and in the protection, preservation, and restoration of America’s environmental heritage. The foundation was created in 1947 by Richard King Mellon (1899–1970), president and chairman of Mellon Bank, a conservationist, and leading figure in the financial and civic life of Pennsylvania. With assets of more than $1.7 billion in 2009, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has built on the vision of these founders. The foundation’s current giving priorities primarily serve Southwestern Pennsylvania with a program focus on regional economic development and conservation, along with education and human services and nonprofit capacity building.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering is one of the oldest engineering programs in the United States. The Swanson School conducts basic and applied research in energy systems, bioengineering, microsystems and nanosystems, computational modeling, and advanced materials development. Approximately 120 faculty members serve more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students in six departments, including bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, and mechanical engineering and materials science.