Penn Arts and Sciences Launches Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology

Penn Arts and Sciences has announced the creation of the Vagelos Institute of Energy Science and Technology. The new institute will bring together world-class researchers to solve scientific and technological problems related to alternative sources of energy and energy use and storage, reinforcing the University of Pennsylvania’s position as one of the premier energy research and technology centers in the nation.

“The Vagelos Institute will galvanize the research efforts of our stellar faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and across many areas of the University,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann.  “It will capitalize on Penn’s strategic strength in integrating knowledge across disciplines to address one of the most critical challenges facing our world today—the need for alternative energy sources. Penn is deeply grateful to Roy and Diana Vagelos for their vision and their extraordinary generosity.”

“The Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology will be home to a powerful constellation of scientists who will carry forward an aggressive research and teaching agenda in the areas of energy and sustainability,” said Steven J. Fluharty, Dean, Penn Arts and Sciences. “Finding sustainable solutions for energy needs is a critical priority for the nation and the world, and that’s why expanding our capabilities in this area is also a priority of Penn Arts and Sciences’ new strategic plan.”

Penn Arts and Sciences is developing the Vagelos Institute in partnership with Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Energy is one of the grand challenges facing our planet. It is one that requires not only fundamental advances in the basic science but also technological innovation to bring these advances to practice," said Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The Institute will be led by prominent senior scientists, who will be joined by other exceptional faculty and outstanding fellows and students on team-based research in collaboration with experts across the University. Penn is currently recruiting a director for the new Institute who will serve as the Vagelos Professor of Energy Research.

The Vagelos Institute will foster advances in energy research by providing faculty with seed grants to develop early-stage projects that can then be parlayed into competitive grant proposals. “Our partnership with faculty in the School of Engineering—and throughout the University—will enable us to effectively compete for the big grants which are essential to funding the most innovative research,” said Dean Fluharty.

Graduate and postdoctoral fellowships will enable the Institute to train the next generation of energy researchers. The Institute will also sponsor seminars, lectures and symposia on key energy research topics, attracting to Penn’s campus a diverse group of national and international scholars and students. 

The Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology is made possible by a $20 million gift from emeritus trustee and alumnus Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, Hon’99, and his wife, Diana. This most recent philanthropic investment in energy research at Penn follows the couple’s 2015 gift to endow two professorships focused on energy research in Penn Arts and Sciences, and their 2012 creation of the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, an undergraduate degree program of Penn Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“There are so many technologies that can be looked to for future sources of energy—solar, fuel cells, wind, hydrogen fission—not to mention the chemicals that we don’t even know anything about now, which could hold answers for alternative energy. My wife and I are passionate about this subject, and we have the notion that Penn can make a unique contribution,” said Vagelos.

Dr. Roy Vagelos, a chemistry major who graduated from Penn in 1950 before going on to receive a medical degree from Columbia University, is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. He served as chair of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 1999, and he is a former member of Penn Arts and Sciences’ Board of Overseers and the former chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid. Diana Vagelos is a former overseer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Vagelos’ longtime support of Penn Arts and Sciences also includes gifts to establish the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, the Vagelos Endowed Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, the Vagelos Science Challenge Scholarship Award, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Chair in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and support for the renovation of the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratories.