Professor Thomas F. Edgar, a chemical engineer with extensive teaching, administrative, research and industry experience, has been named interim director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.
Edgar’s appointment as interim director, effective Jan. 15, will be for a period of one year, during which time the university will determine the appropriate timing for the launch of a national search for a permanent director.
“I’m confident Dr. Edgar will work with faculty across campus to leverage the deep expertise of the university in areas of energy policy and research,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Steven W. Leslie.
Jack Randall, chair of the Energy Institute’s Advisory Council, also expressed support for Edgar.
“Tom Edgar’s expertise and broad experience in energy matters will be of great service to the Energy Institute, and we heartily endorse his appointment,” Randall said.
Edgar fills a vacancy created by last year’s resignation of former director Ray Orbach, who remains on faculty at the university.
Edgar holds the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Chair in Chemical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. He received his B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Kansas and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, and worked as a process engineer with the Continental Oil Company before joining The University of Texas at Austin faculty in 1971.
Edgar will complete his spring teaching commitments to 90 undergraduate students in an upper division course while transitioning to his new position at the Energy Institute.
“I’m excited to take on this new challenge,” Edgar said. “I look forward to working with faculty and researchers, along with stakeholders in industry, government and not-for-profit organizations, to address important energy issues facing our state and nation.”
For the past 40 years Edgar has concentrated his academic work in process modeling, control and optimization. During that time, he has supervised the thesis research of more than 45 master’s and 80 doctoral students. In 2005 he initiated a popular engineering elective, “Energy Technology and Policy,” and has co-taught a similar Signature Course for first-year students outside of engineering. He has published more than 450 articles and book chapters, and has co-authored the textbooks “Coal Processing and Pollution Control Technology” (Gulf Publishing, 1983), “Optimization of Chemical Processes” (McGraw-Hill, 2001) and “Process Dynamics and Control” (Wiley, 2010).
Edgar has served as department chair of chemical engineering (1985-93), associate dean of engineering (1993-96) and associate vice president for academic computing (1996-2001). In the latter position, he had the responsibility of reorganizing and restructuring information technology and telecommunications services at the university, as well as starting new initiatives in instructional technology, distance education and campus IT governance.
Edgar’s current energy research covers renewable energy, combined heat and power, energy storage and improved oil recovery, and develops modeling, control and optimization tools to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. The group also is working with the university’s Utilities and Energy Management division to reduce energy consumption and offset CO2 emissions by improving the thermal efficiency of the campus’s combined heat, power and cooling system.
Edgar also co-directs the Texas-Wisconsin-California Control Consortium, which conducts joint industrial-academic research in the areas of chemical process modeling, monitoring, control and optimization. Research funding has been provided by companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, Abbott Laboratories, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Emerson Process Management, the Center for Operations Performance, Corning and Texas Instruments.
Edgar serves as secretary on the board of the Pecan Street smart grid demonstration project and works with the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) project on sustainable grids, which involves 20 faculty members and 25 graduate students.
He also sits on the boards of CACHE Corp., a nonprofit that supports chemical engineering education, and ABET, the engineering accreditation association. Edgar has been a consultant to several companies, including AMD, Texas Instruments, Applied Materials, Emerson Process Management and Chemstations.
In addition to mutual fund and real estate holdings, Edgar has invested in oil and gas properties and drilling programs, including Waveland Energy Partners.