2004 › Allan Jacobson
26th Farfel Recipient
Professor of Chemistry
Robert A. Welch Chair in Science
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Some aspire to win acclaim for their
accomplishments. Others view praise as icing on the cake.
Such is the case for Allan Jacobson,
this year’s Esther
Farfel Award recipient.
“This is a very important award for a faculty member at
the University of Houston, and it is a great honor to have been
selected,” Jacobson, professor of chemistry, said. “Of
course, one of the most important things about this university
has been the opportunity to collaborate with people, not only in
the chemistry department but in other departments, such as chemical
engineering and physics. That has been very important in my research
and has made a real difference in the work I do.”
And, teamwork is crucial in accomplishing the goals Jacobson has
set in researching fuel cells and their applications.
From more cost-efficient power generation to reducing pollution
emitted from big-rig trucks, the utilization of fuel cells has
many aspects. And, Jacobson, who also is the Robert Welch Chair
of Science and Chemistry, hopes that by developing new materials,
and improving old ones, he will generate research that leads to
fuel cells that can be more widely used.
“The intention is to make fuel cells more efficient and
less expensive. Right now, they are used on a very small scale,” he
According to Jacobson, fuel cells are currently being used to
power space shuttles, and some companies use them to generate power
at their plants.
But, Jacobson’s expertise in chemistry isn’t
found in his research alone.
The director of UH’s Center
for Material Chemistry also finds time to judge local science
fairs and hosts visits to his lab for students in K - 12.
“We are trying to reach out to young students and encourage
them to get involved in the physical sciences,” Jacobson
“We also want more undergraduate students doing research.
The statistics aren’t good. We need to get students interested
in the sciences.”
To boost that interest, Jacobson said the center has a program,
which is funded by the National Science Foundation, that brings
in undergraduate students from UH and other universities to conduct
“Even if they don’t choose that line of study, they
at least have the appreciation and understanding for what science
and research are about,” he said.
The program is held every summer, with about 10 students participating.
In the next five years, Jacobson hopes to shift the focus of his
“I want to work on some things that I have become interested
in over the past few years, including nano-science,” he said.
“And, if that doesn’t work out, I’ll
do something else.”