$2 million from Pritzker Foundation establishes chair in sustainability at UCLA Engineering
Professor Gaurav Sant appointed inaugural chairholder
By Christine Wei-li Lee
This article was originally published by The UCLA Newsroom
Los Angeles philanthropists Tony and Jeanne Pritzker have pledged $2 million to the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering through their charitable foundation. The funds will create the Pritzker Chair in Sustainability and support the faculty excellence fund, designed to attract and retain outstanding engineering professors.
“UCLA has long been a leader in sustainability,” said Tony Pritzker, president of the Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation and chairman and CEO of Pritzker Private Capital. “We hope the endowed chair at UCLA Engineering will support continued growth and innovation in the field of sustainability so that we may preserve clean air, water and other natural resources vital to the well-being of our future generations.”
The Pritzkers are longtime supporters of UCLA and have given more than $100 million to the campus. Their support for research and programs related to the environment spans the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, including the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award; the UCLA Law School; the Congo Basin Institute and UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, a campuswide initiative designed to help transform Los Angeles into the world’s most sustainable megacity by 2050. Through the Pritzkers’ support of the grand challenge initiative, eight UCLA Engineering professors received awards to support research on enhancing the ecosystem and human health.
In 2017, the Pritzker Foundation gave $1.5 million to support the UCLA CarbonBuilt team, which developed a new technology that turns carbon dioxide into concrete. Led by Sant, who also holds an appointment in materials science and engineering, the team won the $7.5 million grand prize in the COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition in April 2021, making UCLA the first university to win an XPRIZE.
“We are immensely grateful to Tony and Jeanne for their generous support of our school,” said
Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of UCLA Engineering. “Their vision and stewardship will help pave the way for groundbreaking research to improve the environment and humanity.”
Since 2018, Sant has led the Institute for Carbon Management’s cross-disciplinary teams, which are creating sustainable solutions for carbon removal. The institute’s ongoing projects include SeaChange, an energy-efficient technology that removes carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater; x/44, a method for achieving electrochemical direct air capture; and EPOCH, an electrochemical process for producing portlandite — a limestone and cement replacement — designed to greatly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions associated with cement and concrete production. Technologies developed at the institute are being commercialized by UCLA startup companies including CarbonBuilt, Concrete-AI and SeaChange.
Both CarbonBuild and Conrete-AI are members of the California NanoSystems Institute’s Magnify incubator. Magnify was built with one goal in mind: to help startups succeed by vastly accelerating their access to facilities while increasing their capital efficiency and market opportunities.
“Gaurav Sant has been instrumental in spearheading innovative carbon management research and technology development at UCLA,” Murthy said. “I’m confident that as the Pritzker Professor of Sustainability, he will continue to lead the Institute for Carbon Management in advancing sustainable and ready-to-market green technology solutions to climate change.”
Tony Pritzker served as co-chair of the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which ended in 2019, raising $5.49 billion. He has served on numerous boards across the campus and is currently a member of UCLA’s Second Century Council, an advisory board to Chancellor Gene Block.