Renowned energy expert Emily Carter returns to Princeton to advise PPPL on sustainability science

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UCLA’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Professor Emily Carter has been named the inaugural senior strategic advisor for sustainability science at the DOE Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

In his announcement, Chancellor Gene Block said that Carter, also a member of the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty, expressed to him an urgency to refocus her expertise and attention on the pressing issue of climate change mitigation. Her last official day at UCLA will be December 9.  

At the PPPL, Carter will provide leadership in the science and technology of sustainability, carbon management and geoengineering. In addition to her administrative post there, she will also return to the faculty and serve as the Gerhard R. Andlinger ’52 Professor in Energy and the Environment as well as professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

Prior to joining the faculty at Princeton University in 2004, Carter served on the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty from 1988 to 2004 and the Materials Science and Engineering faculty from 2002 to 2004. She also helped establish UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). Carter returned to UCLA in 2019 to take her current position.

“I am extremely happy to return to Princeton and to join PPPL in this critical role,” Carter said. “This position is a perfect fit and aligns exactly with my interests and mission. PPPL is unquestionably a national treasure trove of expertise in fusion and energy, and I look forward to working with Steve Cowley and all the superb researchers at the Lab on creating a more sustainable planet.”

Carter has received many honors for her work, including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. She has served on many advisory boards, including the National Research Council’s Boards on Chemical Sciences and Technology and Energy and Environmental Systems, advisory bodies to the federal government. She also has been a member of the advisory board of another national laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for the past five years, and before that served on the Scientific Policy Committee of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Her work in theoretical chemistry and applied mathematics has bridged fundamental science and practical applications. Her research spans the fields of chemistry, physics, applied mathematics and engineering and has included creating quantum mechanical tools for understanding and analyzing the behaviors of large numbers of atoms and electrons in materials. This highly influential work led in recent years to Carter’s research on the discovery and design of materials for generating clean electricity from sunlight and from fuel cells; making fuels and chemicals catalytically from carbon dioxide, water, air, and excess renewable energy; and investigating lightweight metal alloys for fuel-efficient vehicles and fusion reactor walls. A sought-after public speaker on sustainable energy, she is the author of more than 400 publications and has delivered more than 500 invited and plenary lectures worldwide.

Carter is the recipient of several major prizes, including the 2017 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics from the American Physical Society and the 2018 Award in Theoretical Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, both in chemistry.

PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,