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2004 › Allan Jacobson

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 said.

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 said.

“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 research.

“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 research.

“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.”

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