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Taking on the Energy Challenge NEW FACULTY

Adrian Hightower has joined the HMC faculty as assistant professor of engineering, coming from a faculty position in the Physics Department at Occidental College. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the California Institute of Technology and completed a post-doc at the University of Southern California. He worked as a senior scientist for the microfluidics company, Nanostream Inc., and currently consults with the battery manufacturer, Contour Energy Systems.

HMC Bulletin: How did you become interested in materials science?

Adrian Hightower: As an undergraduate at Caltech, I focused on engineering and applied science, mostly electrical engineering. As a senior, I did research in the Materials Sciences Department on battery materials. As a graduate student, I worked with Brent Fultz of the Materials Science Department to study how the electronic structure of metal hydrides and lithium alloys impacted the performance of rechargeable batteries.

HMC-B: Why did you focus on renewable energy?

A.H.: My dad was in the power industry for over 30 years and was general manager of Pasadena Water and Power. I visited power plants at a very young age. I think developing and adopting renewable energy technologies is one of the biggest challenges of this century. The near-term problem is not about running out of fossil fuels, rather it’s about our inability to acquire fossil fuel resources at the rate to sustain the lifestyles we’ve become accustomed to. The harder we try to hold on to last century’s fossil fuel technologies, the more terrible the environmental cost.

HMC-B: I understand you’re doing renewable energy projects in Africa.

A.H.: I started while I was a post-doc at USC. We initially did solar installations for lighting and eventually water pumping and water filtration in Mali, Africa. In 2007 we did a geothermal cooling program in Accra, Ghana. Over the years, I’ve traveled with or sponsored 13 U.S. college students to conduct research in Mali, Ghana, Uganda and Senegal that cross technical and cultural disciplines. Now I’m trying to put together partnerships

6 H a r v e y Mu d d C o l l e g e F A L L /WI N T E R 2 0 1 0 Adrian Hightower

between educational institutions that transcend relationships between individuals. Ideally, I would establish relationships between Harvey Mudd and the University of Mali in Bamako or the University of Ghana in Accra.

HMC-B: Any renewable energy education projects closer to home?

A.H.: I’m teaching a new Mudd first-year engineering elective, E13: Introduction to Energy Systems Engineering. Students learn about the redevelopment of traditional nuclear and fossil fuel technologies as well as the growth of alternative energy technologies (wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, etc). They’re visiting power plants and participating in the 2011 Student Design Competition: H2Go to design a scaled, proof-of-concept prototype for rain energy conversion.

F a c u l t y N e w s


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