2016 Distinguished Alumna: Ellen D. Williams (PhD ’82, Chemistry)
The 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented on Saturday, May 21, during the 79th annual Seminar Day. Each week, the Caltech Alumni Association will share a story about a recipient.
In early March of this year, Ellen Williams stood before an audience of more than 2,000 researchers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of energy.
"We are living in a time as dynamic as when Thomas Edison and his contemporaries experimented with electricity," she declared as master of ceremonies for the Energy Innovation Summit, a conference that included as speakers luminaries such as former Vice President Al Gore and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. "Drawing upon the science and engineering developments of recent decades, and supported by stunning advances in computational capability, today's innovators are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with energy."
Williams should know. As the director for the Advanced Research Project Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), which hosted the summit, she heads an organization that has invested more than $1.3 billion in hundreds of energy-related projects. Her position at the forefront of energy research is the culmination of a long career at the intersection of cutting-edge science, industry, and public policy.