Plan B: Engineering a Cooler Earth

News/Events: News Articles: April 15, 2008

Caltech Creates New Center to Study the Global Environment

PASADENA, Calif.- To address the complex issue of global climate change from a wide range of disciplines, Ronald and Maxine Linde have established an $18 million endowment for the California Institute of Technology to create the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science, uniting faculty from chemistry, engineering, geology, environmental science, and other fields.

The problems addressed by global environmental science represent the types of multidisciplinary challenges for which Caltech is well suited. Approaching them requires close collaboration among all six of Caltech's academic divisions--from chemists studying ozone-destroying reactions in the stratosphere, to fluid dynamicists and physicists studying atmospheric and oceanic flows, to biologists studying nutrient cycles, to geologists studying evidence of the effects of past climates, to social scientists (including economists) and humanists evaluating how society and institutions can respond to global change. In addition, Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (one of the nation's leading centers for satellite-based observation of the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface) can characterize and monitor changes in the current environment.

"Ron and Maxine Linde appreciate how critical environmental science is to the future of life on our planet and the tremendous contributions the Caltech faculty can make to society," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "Their gift will help bring our faculty together and provide flexible support that is critical to creative thinking."

Funded by the Lindes, the initiative will help Caltech achieve its vision of having an integrated program in global environmental science, spanning the many disciplines that must make up such a program. Edward Stolper, Caltech's provost, explains that the Linde Center "will provide a central home and focus for researchers and students working on understanding natural variations in and the impact of human activity on the global environment. These are among the most important and most difficult problems facing our society, and this gift will help Caltech play an important role in addressing them."

To train the future generations of scientists and engineers who will address these problems, Caltech recently established a degree-granting program in environmental science and engineering. This interdivisional program offers training and research ranging from a large-scale understanding of the ocean/atmosphere system and climate to the local scale of developing engineering solutions for environmental problems. As pointed out by Stolper, "Few programs have taken this step of bridging global environmental science and conventional environmental engineering--yet it is an approach we believe will be critical to training future leaders."

The faculty and students associated with the program will be housed in the 75-year-old building that is currently the Henry M. Robinson Laboratory of Astrophysics. When renovated, the building will be named the Linde + Robinson Laboratory. The astronomers will move a short distance to the soon-to-be-completed Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Ronald Linde has been a Caltech trustee since 1989. He is a private investor and chairman of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Foundation, a private foundation that the Lindes established in 1989. He was founder, chairman, and CEO of Envirodyne Industries Inc. He also held various scientific research and management positions at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) and has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications in science and technology. He received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from UCLA and master's and PhD degrees in materials science from Caltech.

Maxine Linde is a private investor and president of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Foundation. She was involved in the early U.S. space program as a scientific programmer at JPL and subsequently served as Envirodyne's general counsel and chief administrative officer. She received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from UCLA and a JD degree from Stanford Law School.

The Lindes have established the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professorship of Applied and Computational Mathematics at Caltech, currently held by renowned mathematician Emmanuel Candes. They also have funded a challenge grant to create the Ronald and Maxine Linde/Caltech Alumni Laboratories in Caltech's Broad Center for the Biological Sciences.

by Jill Perry, Caltech Media Relations

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