Plenary Session Featuring The Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Materials Science

Monday, November 28
6:30 pm – 7:45 pm
Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Grand Ballroom

Ellen WilliamsEllen D. Williams, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy—Innovation for Impact

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is tasked to overcome long-term and high-risk technological barriers in the development of energy technologies.To do so, ARPA-E funds projects with the potential to accelerate breakthrough technical approaches toward practical applications in reducing U.S.dependence on energy imports, Improving energy efficiency, and reducing energy emissions, including greenhouse gases. ARPA-E has developed a unique program management approach that closely couples technical milestones with commercialization milestones.

ARPA-E’s program portfolio includes alternative transportation fuels, energy storage (both vehicular and stationary), low-carbon power, modernization of the electric power grid, and efficiency in buildings, transportation, manufacturing and power generation.

Developing and applying advanced materials is an essential component of many of ARPA-E’s programs. The presentation will use program and project examples to illustrate the role of complex materials and materials interfaces in cutting-edge energy technologies.

About Ellen D. Williams

Ellen D. Williams is the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.

Prior to Senate confirmation for her role in ARPA-E, Williams served as the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy on the DOE’s technology transfer policies, issues and plans. She recommended and helped establish the department's new Office of Technology Transitions to expand the impact of the department’s extensive research and development activities.

Williams joined DOE from BP, where she had been the Chief Scientist since January 2010. There she was responsible for assurance of technology programs, and strategic research and program development. Her priority actions included developing the Advisory Oversight structure for BP’s Gulf Research Initiative, running a multi-university research program on natural resource constraints in the context of energy (the Energy Sustainability Challenge), and establishing cores of scientific excellence and innovation in key disciplinary areas essential to BP’s long-term technical competitiveness.

Prior to joining BP, Williams worked for over 30 years in academia, obtaining her PhD degree at the California Institute of Technology in 1981, and then moving to the University of Maryland, where she rose to become a Distinguished University Professor in the Institute of Physical Science and Technology and the Department of Physics. She founded the University of Maryland Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and served as its Director for 15 years. In parallel, Williams has worked extensively in providing technical advice to the U.S. government, primarily through the Departments of Energy and Defense.

Williams is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Vacuum Society and American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has been recognized with awards from the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society. She has a distinguished history of professional service, including chairing the development of the NAS report on Technical Issues for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


In this MRS TV interview, Ellen D. Williams explains the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy and the kind of projects it funds. She also discusses her talk about ARPA's strong focus on innovation and impact in the energy sector.