—by Julie Chao
What do you do if you’re the kind of scientist who has a passion for developing technological solutions to the global energy and climate problem, but don’t feel academia or the corporate world is the place for you? You come to Berkeley Lab, to work with a wide range of renowned experts and multiple world-class facilities in a new program designed especially for you.
This one-of-a-kind Berkeley Lab program announced over the summer with the name M37 has officially launched this month with a new name and a first cohort of innovators. “Cyclotron Road” will be home to eight entrepreneurial researchers working on six cutting-edge clean energy technologies.
“I am very excited about the new Cyclotron Road program and the first cohort of talented innovators who will join our community for a period of discovery. Our lab now has a way to work with these entrepreneurs to help shape the future of energy technology, with enormous potential benefits for both the economy and the environment.” said Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos.
With two years of salary and modest project funding, each Cyclotron Road innovator will be working to develop and spin out their technology within a finite time frame. The selected scientists will be establishing collaborations within the Lab while also seeking outside support and funding.
“One of the major motivations for launching this program was to attract these exceptional entrepreneurial scientists,” said Ilan Gur, director of the Cyclotron Road program. “Each of these individuals could have taken top-tier academic positions or high-paying industry jobs. Instead, they’ve chosen to come to Berkeley Lab for the unique opportunity to lead a challenging energy technology project in collaboration with our scientists.”
The program was announced in July, and was met with overwhelming response, with more than 150 people expressing interest in applying by the initial three-week deadline. Finalists were invited to on-site interviews and presented to a selection committee consisting of experts from both within and outside the Lab.
“We had an exceptional pool of applicants from all over the world who are doing incredible research,” said Gur.“We are thrilled to have the best and the brightest of these join us as our first cohort.”
As finalists were being selected, a new name was chosen to better demonstrate the program’s connection to Berkeley Lab as well as its ambitions.
“We decided on the name ‘Cyclotron Road’ because it captures our vision for the program as a home for serious researchers and also as a pathway leading from the R&D lab to market impact,” Gur said. “Plus, the name pays homage to Berkeley Lab’s history of innovation led by serious scientists working to change the world.”
Cyclotron Road is just one part of Berkeley Lab’s strategy for accelerating the transfer of science and technology to the public. FLEXLAB and CalCharge are two of the industry-focused programs in the Lab’s new scientific area, Energy Technologies, led by Associate Lab Director Ramamoorthy Ramesh. The Lab’s Innovation and Partnerships Office, led by Elsie Quaite-Randall, has been recently restructured to better move technologies to the marketplace for the benefit of society and the U.S. economy.
Following are brief bios of the eight scientists selected for Cyclotron Road and a description of the technology they will develop. They will be starting at Berkeley Lab over the next several weeks.
Steven Kaye received a B.S. in chemistry from MIT and a Ph.D. in chemistry at UC Berkeley, working under Berkeley Lab scientist Jeffrey Long. Prior to joining Cyclotron Road, he was the Chief Scientific Officer of Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a startup company focused on the development of energy storage materials using combinatorial chemistry.
Kaye’s project will develop metal-organic framework (MOF)-based sorbent systems to radically reduce the energy and cost of industrial chemical production and separations, which account for as much as 10 to 15 percent of total global energy consumption. The Berkeley Lab collaborator on the project is Jeff Long of the Materials Sciences Division.
Like many of the other Cyclotron Road innovators, Kaye is optimistic that the program offers a surer path for technologies to reach the real world. “I’ve seen first hand the challenges of building a materials company via the traditional venture capital model—the combination of high capital requirements, long purchase cycles, and the need for rapid return on investment force companies to monetize early at the expense of long-term value,” he wrote in his application. “M37 is the first attempt I’ve seen to address these challenges.”
Deepak Dugar earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Indian Institute of Technology in biochemical engineering and biotechnology. He has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering practice and an MBA from MIT, and previously worked as a management consultant focusing on cleantech at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Dugar’s project aims to develop the next generation of biocatalysts and processes for converting renewable feedstocks into chemicals and fuels at a price point competitive with petroleum-based processes. The Berkeley Lab collaborator for this project is Steven Singer of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and Earth Sciences Division.
Kendra Kuhl & Etosha Cave
Kendra Kuhl received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Montana and Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Anders Nilsson at SLAC, focusing on in situ catalyst characterization and the effect of surface morphology on catalyst activity.
Etosha Cave holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford and a B.S. in engineering from the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and is finishing her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Stanford.
Both Kuhl and Cave worked in the lab of Thomas F. Jaramillo in Stanford’s chemical engineering department, developing technology that uses electrochemistry to transform CO2 into liquid fuels and chemical precursors. The Berkeley Lab collaborator for this project is Venkat Srinivasan of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division.
“M37 is the program of our dreams: a nexus of top researchers, state-of-the-art equipment, and a culture dedicated to developing technology at a rapid pace,” Kuhl wrote in her application.
Jared Schwede & Daniel Riley
Jared Schwede holds a B.S. in physics from Yale, and Dan Riley holds a B.S. in engineering physics from Case Western Reserve University. Both are Ph.D. candidates in the physics department at Stanford, where their research has focused on a breakout solar energy technology based on photon-enhanced thermionic energy conversion.
Schwede and Riley’s goal is to develop a device based on thermionics to convert heat to electricity. While thermionic energy conversion has been around since the 1960s, they believe that new technologies, such as microfabrication, can significantly boost its efficiency, thus transforming the global energy landscape. The Berkeley Lab collaborator for this project is Thomas Schenkel of Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics.
“Thermionic conversion has the potential to redefine entire industries and could leapfrog current practice for directly converting heat to electricity,” they wrote in their application.
Weitekamp has developed a process to reduce catalyst waste, while offering a novel method for designing and fabricating multifunctional 3-d structures that can transform the fields of additive manufacturing, microfabrication, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The Berkeley Lab collaborator for this project is Jeff Urban of the Materials Sciences Division.
Marcus Lehmann has an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Munich and experience in technology and product development at Siemens, E.ON, and BMW. He is earning a Ph.D. at the Technical University of Hamburg and is a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley’s Theoretical and Applied Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
Lehmann is developing a novel technology that produces electricity through the movement of ocean waves, while protecting shorelines against erosion. Through Cyclotron Road, Lehmann plans to integrate Berkeley Lab’s computing resources and expertise in modeling and simulation to optimize and further the development of his technology. The Berkeley Lab collaborator for this project is Marc Day of the Computational Research Division.
On Thursday, November 20 from 4:30 to 7:00 pm the Lab community is invited for a meet-and-greet with the first cohort, who will give short overview presentations of their projects. The event will take place in Building 15, Room 253. Refreshments will be served.
Learn more at the Cyclotron Road website.