Shirley Meng, leader in energy storage research, joins PME, Argonne

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago has recruited Shirley Meng, an internationally recognized leader in energy storage research, to serve as a professor of molecular engineering. Meng will also hold the position of chief scientist for the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS).

A pioneer in material science, Meng’s research centers on measuring, controlling, and manipulating fundamental energy storage devices, which has led to more powerful, safer, and longer-lasting batteries. She is a leading expert in applying advanced X-ray imaging to the study of electrode material. Meng has also led the development of liquefied gas electrolytes, allowing for a new class of battery that can operate at -112°F. Current lithium-ion batteries cannot operate under -4°F.

“Shirley is a world-leading researcher and an engineer whose success validates the central ethos of PME—that engineers of the next generation must adapt multiple disciplines to meet future demands,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of PME. “Her work regarding material design for energy storage aligns perfectly with, and will greatly expand, PME’s existing theme of Materials Systems for Sustainability and Health. She and her lab bring exceptional talent and expertise in next-generation battery development to the University, Argonne, and the Chicagoland area.”

“We are thrilled to be adding Shirley to the Argonne team,” said Venkat Srinivasan, director of ACCESS and deputy director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). “Energy storage in the electrochemical form is one of the key technologies for accelerating the nation’s path to a clean energy future. The research team Shirley will build at Argonne will supercharge battery activities underway and further establish the Chicago region as a world center for energy storage research.”

Currently the Zable Endowed Chair in Energy Technologies at the University of California, San Diego, Meng will join PME and Argonne in January 2022.

“As a faculty member of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, I hope to build an innovation ecosystem where we can train the next generation workforce, foster meaningful relations with industry both domestic and international, and make breakthroughs in energy storage technologies in the decade to come,” Meng said. “At the same time, I am excited and humbled to take up the role of ACCESS chief scientist. To tackle the climate crisis, sustainable and resilient energy storage is one of the most important technologies humanity needs.”

Meng’s career began at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 2000. She earned her PhD in materials science in 2005 from the National University in Singapore as a doctoral student under the supervision of battery scientist Gerbrand Ceder in the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) program. She went on to join MIT as a postdoctoral fellow.

Meng joined the University of Florida in 2008 as an assistant professor of materials science. A year later, she moved to the Nanoengineering Department at UC San Diego, where she became the founding director of the Sustainable Power and Energy Center and since 2019 has served as the inaugural director of the Institute for Materials Discovery and Design at UC San Diego.

Meng’s research has produced more than 225 publications as well as four issued and six pending patents. It has also led to startup companies in addition to higher energy, longer life, and safer batteries. One startup that spun out of Meng’s lab, known as South 8 Technologies, is commercializing her team’s research into lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries that work at extremely cold temperatures. 

This work could widen the market for lithium batteries for electric vehicles by removing a major barrier to functioning in extreme climates.