Institutes of Energy and the Environment Director Tom Richard to step down

September 30, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tom Richard, director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE), has announced his intention to step down from his position with the institutes after more than 13 years of dedicated leadership.

Tom Richard headshot

Tom Richard

IMAGE: Penn State

Richard will continue to serve Penn State as a professor of agricultural and biological engineering, and will lead IEE until a new director has been identified.

“The leadership Tom has provided to the Institutes of Energy and the Environment has been nothing short of transformative,” said Lora Weiss, Penn State’s senior vice president for Research. “Under Tom’s visionary guidance, IEE has become a model for undertaking and supporting high-impact interdisciplinary research that helps our global society better steward our planet’s resources. Penn State is recognized around the globe as a leader in energy and the environment, and Tom’s work leading these vital research institutes has played an important role in making Penn State the world-class energy University it is today.”

Richard has served as director of IEE since 2008, shortly after the IEE expanded and first adopted energy as part of the institutes’ name and mission. In that time, Richard has overseen the growth of IEE from 32 to 71 co-funded faculty members with more than 500 faculty affiliates, and from less than $10 million in active research awards to more than $100 million.

“Year after year, the Institutes of Energy and the Environment has continued to grow, helping researchers from disciplines across the University collaborate and solve some of the world’s most important problems,” Richard said. “IEE has established state-of-the-art shared instrumentation facilities that help faculty and students understand processes from the nano to the planetary scale, from the distant past to the present day’s most pressing challenges. The institutes support more than two dozen centers and programs that foster interdisciplinary research to help our world overcome these challenges, both here in Pennsylvania and around the globe.”

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve our incredibly talented faculty, students and staff, and to help build a culture of collaboration that is recognized as a hallmark of Penn State,” Richard said. “Our University’s commitment to interdisciplinary team research and our 21st century land-grant mission to serve society, combined with the passion, commitment and scholarly excellence of our research community, makes Penn State a University with both the will, and the skill, to achieve real progress. Helping support these efforts has been extremely rewarding for me, as it will be to whoever is fortunate enough to be named IEE’s next director.”

Richard first joined Penn State as an associate professor of biological engineering in 2004, before being named a full professor in 2011. Prior to Penn State, he taught at Iowa State University for seven years. He holds a doctoral degree in biological engineering and a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, both from Cornell University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in the political economy of natural resources from the University of California, Berkeley. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 scholarly and technical publications, with research interests in applying engineering science to microbial ecosystems and developing strategies for more sustainable agriculture.

“Penn State is fortunate that Tom will remain at Penn State to oversee a smooth transition of leadership at IEE and to continue enriching our University through his excellence as an instructor and researcher,” Weiss said. “We are grateful for his many years of service and leadership.”

”In addition to his service to Penn State, Richard also directs the Northeast Regional Sun Grant Center for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is the deputy technical advisor of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Risk Assessment Partnership for geologic carbon sequestration. He is a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, as well as a fellow and former president of the Institute of Biological Engineering.

Last Updated October 02, 2021