Endowment Backs UT’s Focus on Energy; Could Mean Millions in Funding

 

PaddisonUT’s commitment to energy is getting a major boost from the Gibson Family Foundation, courtesy of a $1.5 million endowment.

The Gibson Endowed Chair in Engineering has been created with the specific goal of expanding research into environmentally friendly, sustainable energy, with Stephen Paddison, professor and Ferguson Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, named as the first chair.

“From the beginning I wanted this to be a position that solved energy problems in a responsible way,” said Gibson, a 1971 UT graduate in industrial engineering. “With all the good things UT has going on, seeing their partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I wanted to be a part of that. We’re all-in.”

Paddison has garnered worldwide acclaim for his role in developing membranes for fuel cells, including membership in Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry.

In addition to the awards he has won and the research he has conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, Paddison also spent a number of years at Los Alamos National Laboratory and now leads the Paddison Research Group in the quest for more efficient fuel cells.

While the endowment itself is a major plus for the college, the impact on research, funding, and breakthroughs that it could generate loom even larger.

An internal study indicates that over the next twenty years the initial investment could lead to as much as $10 million in additional funding, and that as many as thirty doctoral candidates will have their careers launched by research related to the work.

Jim Gibson, right, stands next to College of Engineering Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Veerle Keppens during the opening of the Jim Gibson Conference Room in 2013.“The significance of the Gibson family’s contribution to our college can’t be overstated,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the College of Engineering. “Their commitment reaffirms our position as a leader in researching the sustainable energy sources of tomorrow, and it sets us up to have continued success at doing so for generations.”

Paddison said being named the Gibson Endowed Chair in Engineering “is a great and unexpected honor.

“It will also be a tremendous shot in the arm in terms of facilitating the pursuit of new research directions and further international collaboration,” he said.

With the requirements for the chaired position stating that it is to be used solely on energy research, Paddison was a logical choice.

“When I learned about him, about his background and what he does, he really was the perfect fit,” said Gibson. “He is a really talented person, and part of the College of Engineering being the best it can be involves investing in people as much as it does buildings. Hopefully, he’ll be there for a long time.”

The endowment marks a continuation of Gibson’s relationship with the College of Engineering, with the Jim Gibson Conference Room in the recently opened John D. Tickle Engineering building serving to highlight his close ties with UT.

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

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