2024 Ruckenstein Lecture

Engineering the Energy Transition to Net Zero Carbon

Headshot of John L Anderson.

John L. Anderson

John L. Anderson | President, National Academy of Engineering

Friday, April 12, 2024 at 2 p.m.

Screening Room First Floor, Center for the Arts

UB Amherst Campus



Most of the world has come to grips with the reality that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have and will continue to alter our climate and we need to do something about it.  Science has laid out an impressive set of evidence demonstrating anthropogenic causes of climate change and has developed compelling models for future global temperature increases with their potential consequences.  So, we have the “what;” the question now is “how” – Engineers must answer it, and governments and the public must act.  The transition to a zero net carbon ecosystem in the US can be engineered over the next several decades if we have the public will and the government’s commitment of the necessary financial resources.  The technical innovations required to significantly reduce GHG emissions must gain public acceptance; therefore, the role of social sciences cannot be neglected in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Addressing climate change is an “all hands on deck” challenge.


John L. Anderson became president of the National Academy of Engineering in July 2019. His professional career spanned 48 years in academia. He served as president of the Illinois Institute of Technology, and as provost and executive vice president at Case Western Reserve University. His 28-year tenure on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University included eight years as dean of the College of Engineering and eleven years as head of the Chemical Engineering Department. His first faculty appointment was in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University.

As a professor, he has taught classes to first-year undergraduates all the way through to PhD students, and he has always enjoyed learning from students. He has held visiting professorships at MIT (Guggenheim fellow), University of Wageningen (The Netherlands), and University of Melbourne (Australia). Honorary doctorates have been awarded to him by Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Delaware, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Case Western Reserve University.

Anderson was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1992 for his research on colloidal hydrodymanics and membrane transport. He is a fellow of the American Academyc of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and he received the Acrivos Professional Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was a presidential appointment to the National Science Board for the period 2014 - 2020.

Anderson received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a PhD degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both in chemical engineering. He is married to Patricia Siemen Anderson; they have two children and five grandchildren.

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