A More Sustainable Future by philanthropy

Chancellor’s Fellow Shota Atsumi in a lab coat
Chancellor’s Fellow Shota Atsumi said when he arrived at UC Davis and began this project in 2009, it seemed like “science fiction.” However, his lab has made excellent progress toward making the impossible, possible.

The heat is on as society searches for a substitute for petroleum and fossil fuels, which currently power much of the machines and technology in homes, schools and workplaces. University of California, Davis, Associate Professor Shota Atsumi is experimenting with new and exciting ideas in order to make the world a more sustainable place for the next generation.

Atsumi, who teaches undergraduate and graduate chemistry courses in the College of Letters and Science, is one of the 12 UC Davis faculty members to be named a 2018 Chancellor’s Fellow. Funded by the Annual Fund and the UC Davis Parents Fund, Chancellor’s Fellows keep this title for five years and receive $25,000 to advance their research projects and other scholarly work.

“I’m excited to receive this funding for my work,” Atsumi said. “We need to figure out a way to use something other than petroleum, because someday we are going to run out of it. Pair that with the global population increasing –– we need to produce more food and more energy in a clean and sustainable way.”

Atsumi’s goal is twofold –– to reduce petroleum dependency and CO2 emission. For the past nine years, his lab has been working on synthetically producing a chemical that can act as a replacement for fossil fuels. They are now working on improving the productivity of the chemicals so that industry can eventually build upon their research to create a practical product.

Changing the world, one step at a time

Astumi said the ability to try something new is what makes science so exciting.

“For a private industry company, their top priority is profit. For us here at the university, we are concerned with discovering new and innovative ideas,” he said. “This takes a lot of research and the willingness to try new concepts, which is why the collaborative environment at UC Davis and programs like the Chancellor’s Fellows are so important.”

Atsumi said it is a great honor to be recognized as a Chancellor’s Fellow but emphasized that his research would not be possible without the work of his team.

“I am like a baseball manager –– I have a strategy and a game plan of how I want the research projects to go,” Atsumi said. “My students and post-doc are the players –– without good players, we can’t win the game. I’m fortunate to have excellent players on my team.”

The team’s goal is to help maintain a clean environment and produce sustainable energy for society.

“Every small step we make toward a clean environment is a great thing,” Atsumi said. “I’m very happy to be a part of the excellent work going on here at UC Davis to make this future possible.”