Himadri Pakrasi, founding director of the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (InCEES) at Washington University in St. Louis, will conclude his tenure as director, effective July 1.
David Fike, associate director of InCEES, will serve as interim InCEES director. Fike is also director of the Environmental Studies program and professor of earth and planetary sciences, both in Arts & Sciences.
“Himadri’s vision and service, not only to Washington University, but to our global community, has been remarkable,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “His innovative approach leveraged the collaborative strength of the university community to explore energy and environment challenges and advance solutions to effectively address them. He has helped to further establish Washington University as a leader when it comes to sustainability, and for that we are profoundly grateful.”
Pakrasi, also the Myron and Sonya Glassberg/Albert and Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor, is a renowned biochemist who joined the university faculty in 1987 and founded InCEES in 2007. The center acts as a catalyst, awarding project seed money and bringing together teams of researchers and teachers across the university to address the enormous energy, environmental and sustainability challenges facing the planet.
The mission of InCEES is to build and strengthen collaborations with local, national and international partners who are interested and invested in similar work. The center awarded $4.5 million for project pilot funding, which in turn has helped Washington University researchers bring in $46 million from external funding sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, NASA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
InCEES continues to foster interdisciplinary activities by leading large-scale research projects and supporting unique student opportunities, such as the 2017 Solar Decathlon competition entry and attendance at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.
“As the founding director of InCEES, I have many fond memories that span the 13 years of my directorship,” Pakrasi said. “I am excited about the next phase of my research. I am also deeply engaged in energy and climate policy-related activities as a member of several national and international committees, and am looking forward to contributing to the global efforts in these important areas.”
During his InCEES tenure, Pakrasi also strengthened relationships with leaders in the field of environment and sustainability, bringing leading scholars and researchers to campus through lectures, seminars and workshops.
In addition to his work with InCEES, Pakrasi was a researcher and member of the executive committee for the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center, a $35 million Department of Energy-funded Energy Frontier Center. He also served in a leadership role for the Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium, a joint binational center led by Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Washington University. The consortium includes 14 principal investigators from seven Indian research organizations and Washington University as well as substantial investments from two Indian industrial partners.
“Under Himadri’s leadership for the past 13 years, InCEES established itself as the hub of interdisciplinary energy, environmental and sustainability work on campus,” Fike said. “Working beside him for the last several years has been a delight, and it’s an honor to be able to guide InCEES into its next incarnation.”
Pakrasi will return to the Department of Biology and resume the endowed professorship he held in Arts & Sciences prior to leading InCEES. As the George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor, he will continue to advance his active research and teaching work.
— Courtney Chazen, communications specialist at InCEES, contributed to this report.