CEESI Colloquium: Robert McGrath, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Friday, November 20, 2009 at 10 AMmcgrath_robert
15 St. Mary’s Street, Room 105
Coffee at 9:30 AM

Status and Technological Challenges for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Options: An Overview of R&D at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Achieving dramatic reductions in fossil fuel utilization and associated greenhouse gas emissions will require major transformations of our electricity generation and transportation infrastructures. While there is great enthusiasm and promise for renewable energy options, at present renewable sources account for only 2% of our nations total energy and less than 4% of the nation’s non-hydro electricity production. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are advancing Wind, Solar, Biofuels, Building Efficiency and other technologies required to enable generation of 20-40% of the nation’s electricity and 15 -20% of our transportation fuels from renewable sources over the next two decades.

Robert McGrath presently serves as Deputy Laboratory Director for Science & Technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  In this role, he oversees NREL’s research and development portfolio which includes the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV), the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) and the National Bioenergy Center (NBC), along with extensive programs in transportation technologies, building efficiency technology, renewalble electricity integration with the smart electrical grid, and chemical, biological and material sciences for energy applications.

Prior to joining NREL, Bob served as Senior Vice President for Research at The Ohio State University from 2004 through 2008 where he was responsible for research strategic planning and investment; interdisciplinary research; regulatory compliance for human subject and animal research, and Technology Transfer and Commercialization.  He served as President of the Ohio State University Research Foundation and President of the Science & Technology Campus Corporation. His tenured academic appointments were as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and as Professor of Physics.  Under his leadership, Ohio State’s research programs grew dramatically to $740 million per year, and OSU’s national research rankings as published by the federal government climbed to 9th among all U.S. universities, up from 18th in 2003.  During that same period, Ohio State’s ranking for executing research sponsored by industry rose to 2nd in the nation ($140 million/yr).  Dr. McGrath was appointed by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland as a member of the Third Frontier Advisory Board, which oversees Ohio’s $1.6 billion investment portfolio for Technology Based Economic and Workforce Development.

From 1996 through 2004, Dr. McGrath worked at Penn State University where he simultaneously served as Associate Vice President for Research, Director of Interdisciplinary Programs, Director of the Marine Corps Research University and Professor of Engineering Sciences.  In those years, Penn State rose to be among the top 10 research universities in the nation and 1st in the nation in terms of research sponsored by industry.  Dr. McGrath also served as Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at Penn State between 1980 and 1984, during which time he taught and developed a number of courses, conducted an extensive research program in magnetic confinement fusion, and was recipient of a Young Investigator (Career) Award from the National Science Foundation.

From 1981 through 1998, Dr. McGrath worked for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he served in various roles as researcher, program manager and division manager supporting a variety of R&D efforts.  He worked extensively with SEMATECH on plasma chemistries and development of thin film processing equipment for microelectronics manufacturing, and supported numerous other Cooperative R&D Agreements (CRADAs) with industry.  His work also included contributions to high performance computing and selected programs now under the National Nuclear Security Agency.  Designated by the U.S. Department of Energy as U.S. Coordinator for magnetic fusion plasma-material collaborations with the European Union, Russia, Former Soviet Union States, and Japan, Dr. McGrath worked extensively with the Japanese National Institute for Fusion Science, The Japanese Atomic Energy Research Institute, the Kernforshungsanlange and the Max Plank Research Institutes in Germany, Commissariat á L’Energie Atomique in Cadarache, France; Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and the Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg, as well as with every national laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy Complex.

Additional employment also includes shorter periods working with Argonne National Laboratory, HRB Division of Raytheon, Battelle Pacific Northwest Labs, Exxon Research, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics and TRW.

Robert McGrath received his Ph.D. in Nuclear Science & Engineering from The University of Michigan in 1980.  He earned Baccalaureate and Masters degrees from Penn State in Engineering Sciences (BS – 1972), Physics (MS – 1974) and Mathematics (MA – 1975).

Dr. McGrath has authored over fifty journal publications, many co-authored with the numerous graduate students, post docs and junior researchers that have worked under his mentorship.  He has similarly authored over eighty published abstracts and conference presentations, in addition to hundreds of technical reports and seminars. webpage

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