Haas Faculty Member to Advise White House on Solar Energy

Photo: Cyrus Wadia
Cyrus Wadia

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UC Berkeley's Cyrus Wadia has taken his knowledge of renewable energy to Washington, D.C. as the most recent campus talent to be tapped by the Obama Administration.

Wadia-who assumed his new role Monday-will take a one-year leave of absence from his position as co-director of the Haas School of Business's Cleantech to Market Program in order to advise the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on the increased use of solar energy, according to a campus statement.

"It is especially exciting for me to join this administration, with its strong commitment to improving our energy future," Wadia said in an e-mail.

His campus colleagues said they look forward to his impact on federal policy.

"He has a real shot at influencing the direction of research on alternative energy," said Severin Borenstein, a professor at the Haas School of Business and co-director of the Energy Institute at Haas. "Everyone recognizes that solar energy can be turned into electricity, but the question is where is the United States going to put it in the budget?"

Wadia will join other members of the campus community who have joined the Obama Administration, including Christina Romer-who is chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers-and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Throughout his time on campus, Wadia's research focused on developing solar energy with materials that are cheaper and more abundant than silicon, which is currently the predominant source of solar cells, according to Catherine Wolfram, co-director of the Energy Institute at Haas.

Wadia analyzed the effectiveness of copper sulfate and iron pyrite-commonly known as fool's gold-in his dissertation, earning his PhD in Energy & Resources from UC Berkeley.

For his research and analysis on materials that could be used in manufacturing solar cells, Wadia made MIT Technology Review's 2009 Young Innovators Under 35 list, according to the review's Web site.

"He's becoming a real star," said Borenstein. "He has been a fantastic resource ... because of his science training and business background."

Wadia is actively involved in both the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a guest scientist in addition to his involvement at Haas.

"It was a lot of fun working with Cyrus," said Lab Director Paul Alivisatos.

According to Wolfram, Cleantech to Market is a program in which UC Berkeley graduate students and scientists collaborate on how to market and commercialize their research into new technologies.

Co-director Beverly Alexander will continue to oversee the program this semester while Wadia is in D.C.

The scope of the program is growing and the members of the program look forward to Wadia's return next year, according to Wolfram.

"Cyrus is great," she said. "We're really sorry to see him go, but it's a really good thing for U.S. energy policy."


Contact Kim Bielak at [email protected]

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