Alumna Joan Brennecke To Join Faculty

Alumna Joan Brennecke shows a hook 'em sign in her office. She will join Texas ChE Faculty in fall 2017The McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering is proud to announce alumna and renowned researcher Joan Brennecke (B.S. ‘84) will join our faculty as a professor beginning fall 2017.

Brennecke, a leading expert in energy and sustainability, was recruited with key support from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his new Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) grant program. The program aims to bring the world’s best and brightest minds to Texas universities to spur innovation and drive economic activity. Brennecke is one of 10 researchers to receive a GURI grant in 2016 to come to Texas universities, marking the program’s first round of awards.

“Through our Governor’s University Research Initiative, Texas is making a strategic investment to vault the standings of our public colleges and universities into the top-ranked nationally,” Gov. Abbott said. “Our investment into GURI will help our universities recruit even more Nobel Laureates and national academy members to the Lone Star State and will serve as a catalyst for further economic development.”

The initiative provides up to $5 million in matching funds per researcher, to assist eligible institutions of higher education in Texas to recruit highly distinguished scholars. The program is operated within the Office of the Governor in the Economic Development and Tourism Division.

UT Austin has received $5 million in total grant funding to recruit Brennecke and Wei Yang who will join the university’s Department of Molecular Biosciences. The funding will provide important resources as the professors set up their labs and begin their research.

“I thank Gov. Abbott for his unparalleled support of higher education in Texas and our efforts to promote research that will both improve the world and drive the economy,” said UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves. “Joan Brennecke’s work is already improving energy efficiency and storage and Wei Yang’s research is improving drug therapy for cancer patients.”

Brennecke, who received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UT Austin in 1984, comes from the University of Notre Dame and will begin her new appointment Aug. 1, 2017. She is a pioneer in the development of ionic liquids (liquid-state salts) for use in sustainable chemical processing and energy storage applications. She is best known for the design, synthesis and testing of ionic liquids to selectively remove CO2 from the gas exiting into the atmosphere from coal and natural power plants.

Brennecke is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has received awards from the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the U.S. Department of Energy and others. She has published more than 130 research papers garnering over 13,000 citations.

Read the University’s official press release.

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