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2024 Seed Grant Program by the numbers

Zhiqiang Mao among 32+ researchers to receive IEE seed grant

6 June 2024

Eleven interdisciplinary research teams, including one with Zhiqiang Mao, professor of physics and chemistry in the Penn State Eberly College of Science, have been awarded funding through Penn State's Institute of Energy and the Environment’s (IEE) Seed Grant Program for 2024. The goal of the program is to foster basic and applied research that addresses IEE’s five research themes. Additionally, in recognition and support of the launch of the Penn State Climate Consortium, the 2024 call required all proposals to have a climate-related connection. 
“The Penn State Climate Consortium demonstrates the University's commitment to improving our planet by addressing climate change, the most pressing issue of our time with global societal implications," said Bruce Logan, IEE director and Evan Pugh University Professor and Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering. "Recognizing this urgency, IEE issued a call for proposals that seek to create new collaborations and research efforts to develop solutions. This initiative goes beyond just addressing climate change. The aim is to mitigate climate change’s impact on our communities and economies, which will pave the way for a more sustainable and just future." 
Mao’s team includes Linxiao Zhu from the College of Engineering and Stephanie Law from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Their 2024 project is titled “Developing Nonreciprocal Thermal Emitters for Renewable Energy Harvesting” and aims to develop special materials that emit heat in one direction but not absorb heat in the same direction, which could improve the efficiency of solar cells and other renewable energy technologies. 
For more than 10 years, IEE has provided critical funding for researchers to develop new interdisciplinary research teams and position them for high-impact research and substantial external funding success. Since 2016, the IEE Seed Grant Program has resulted in more than $60 million in external funding from government agencies, non-profit organizations and industry, a 12:1 return on investment.  
More than funding, the IEE Seed Grant Program cultivates a collaborative learning environment. It fosters teamwork and leadership by bringing together senior and junior faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. Through these projects, participants gain mentorship and expertise, ultimately developing into well-rounded researchers poised to lead future interdisciplinary teams. 
The Institute of Energy and the Environment connects and supports interdisciplinary teams of researchers that are solving some of the world’s most difficult energy and environmental challenges. For more information about the seed grant program or the Institute of Energy and the Environment, visit