Precourt Institute Directors


Sally M. Benson joined Stanford University in 2007. She holds three appointments at Stanford: professor of energy resources engineering in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the campus-wide hub of energy research and education; and director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), a pioneering university-industry partnership to develop innovative, low-carbon energy supplies to meet global energy needs. An internationally recognized scientist with extensive management experience, Professor Benson is responsible for fostering cross-campus collaborations on energy through the Precourt Institute and guiding the growth and development of GCEP's diverse research portfolio.

Prior to coming to Stanford in 2007, Professor Benson was at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a leading research center supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the University of California. She held a variety of key positions during her 29-year tenure at Lawrence Berkeley. From 2001 to 2004, she was deputy director of operations for the lab. She also served as director of the Earth Sciences Division and as associate laboratory director for Energy Sciences. From 1990 to 1998, she was also a visiting professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Clemson University in South Carolina.

A groundwater hydrologist and reservoir engineer, Professor Benson is widely regarded as a leading authority on carbon capture and storage and emerging energy technologies. In 2012, she served as a convening lead author of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA), a multinational project coordinated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. The GEA was the first fully integrated assessment that analyzed energy challenges, opportunities and strategies for developing, industrialized and emerging economies. The final GEA report presents a new global energy policy agenda, one that transforms the way society thinks about, uses and delivers energy.

Professor Benson's research interests include technologies for a low-carbon future and net energy analysis, a scientific method that weighs the energetic cost of energy production against the energy produced, with the goal of quantifying the overall energy efficiency of the production process. She and her GCEP colleagues conducted a groundbreaking series of net energy analyses calculating the energetic costs of wind turbines, solar photovoltaics and grid-scale renewable energy storage. Professor Benson also leads a research laboratory at Stanford that studies fundamental aspects of geologic carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration in saline aquifers. In 2005, she served as a coordinating lead author of a special report on CO2 capture and storage published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, she was one of thousands of IPCC scientists to receive the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The author of more than 160 scientific publications, Professor Benson is the co-founding editor of the journal, MRS Energy and Sustainability. Her contributions have been acknowledged by the 2012 Greenman Award from the IEA Greenhouse Gas Program; the ARCS 2009 American Pacesetter Award; and the 2009 Michel T. Halbouty Distinguished Lecture Award from the Geological Society of America. Since 2006, she has delivered more than 200 invited talks on topics ranging from energy policy to carbon sequestration. She has also testified at U.S. Congressional hearings on climate change technology and CO2 sequestration.

Professor Benson serves on the boards of directors of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Carbon Management Canada and Climate Central. She is a member of the advisory board of the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan; the visiting committee of the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Clemson University; the Energy, Climate and Infrastructure advisory board of the Sandia National Laboratory; the climate change committee of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; the BIGCCS Scientific Committee of the Research Council of Norway; the American Geophysical Union; the Society of Petroleum Engineers; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2010, she served on the State of California’s Panel on Carbon Capture and Storage, and on the WRI Task Force on CCS in China.

Professor Benson received a B.S. in geology from Barnard College at Columbia University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and mineral engineering from the University of California-Berkeley.


Arun Majumdar is the Jay Precourt Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy. 

Arun’s research in the past has involved the science and engineering of nanoscale materials and devices, especially in the areas of energy conversion, transport and storage as well as biomolecular analysis. His current research focuses on using electrochemical reactions for thermal energy conversion, thermochemical water splitting reactions to produce carbon-free hydrogen, understanding the limits of heat transport in nanostructured materials and a new effort to re-engineer the electricity grid.

In October 2009, President Obama nominated Arun and the Senate confirmed him as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, where he served until June 2012. Between March 2011 and June 2012, Arun was also the acting under secretary of energy and a senior advisor to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

After leaving Washington, DC and before joining Stanford, Arun was the vice president for energy at Google, where he created several energy technology initiatives, especially on the electricity grid, and advised the company on its broader energy strategy. 

Prior to joining the Department of Energy, Arun was the Almy & Agnes Maynard Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering at University of California–Berkeley and the associate laboratory director for energy and environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Arun serves on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s advisory board, the councils of the National Academy of Engineering and the Electric Power Research Institute, the science policy committee of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is a member of the international advisory panel for energy of the Singapore Ministry of Trade & Industry and the U.S. delegation for the U.S. –India Track II dialogue on climate change and energy. The U.S. State Department recently appointed him as a U.S. science envoy with an emphasis on energy and innovation in Poland and the Baltic region.

Arun is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He earned a bachelor's degree at the Indian Institute of Technology–Bombay in 1985 and his Ph.D. from U.C.–Berkeley in 1989, both in mechanical engineering.

Precourt Institute Staff

Program Manager

Marjorie manages the Stanford Energy 3.0 Program and is responsible for executing and supporting Stanford Energy 3.0 operations; responds to requests from member companies and professors; ensures a sustained level of engagement between professors, grad students, and member companies; plans events ranging from small meetings to large conferences; administers a fellow-mentor-advisor program; arranges graduate student recruiting events; manages the Stanford Energy 3.0 budget and financial transactions; invoices members and tracks payments; maintains the company and people database; provides support for international and US visiting scholars; and assures that members receive invitations to all appropriate Stanford events.

Marjorie started at Stanford in 2002 as the fellowship administrator for the John Gardner Fellowship program and the Campus Coordinator for the Stanford in Washington program at the Haas Center for Public Service. She then spent 5 years as the Programs and Administration Manager for the Center for Integrated Systems, an industry affiliate program under the School of Engineering. Prior to joining Stanford, Marjorie worked as a contracts administrator for various high tech Silicon Valley companies and marketing communications administrator for Silicon Graphics. Marjorie earned her BA in American History from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her MBA from San Jose State University.

Managing Director

Jim Chen is responsible for developing and managing Stanford Energy 3.0 engagements for corporations and other organizations that have an interest in Stanford’s research, faculty, and graduate students in energy and energy-related areas. He has a broad background in energy and technology, specializing in technology and product development. He has held technical positions at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, GTE Labs, and AT&T Bell Labs, and technology executive positions at both starts-ups and Fortune 500 companies, including FormFactor and Eaton. He received his PhD degree from MIT and his MS degree from the University of California, Berkeley both in materials science and engineering, and his BS degree from the University of California, Berkeley in electrical engineering.

Financial Analyst
Patrick provides financial management and analysis for the Precourt Institute for Energy and its related centers, including budget tracking and forecasting, transaction approval and financial reporting.
Prior to joining PIE, Patrick spent time working in a variety of university departments including the Stanford Alumni Association, and the technology transfer and venture capital operations at the University of Illinois. He holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois - Chicago and a BA in History from Loyola University Chicago.

Mark Golden's principal responsibility is to inform the public about energy research and education at Stanford through articles, press releases, the Internet, printed materials and presentation graphics, and by aiding reporters writing about energy. His focus is on economic and policy research. Mark began work at Stanford in 2011, when he joined the Precourt Institute's communications team.

Before coming to Stanford, Mark taught in the San Francisco public schools for several years, and he was a reporter for Dow Jones & Co. for 10 years, primarily covering the U.S. natural gas and power industries. Previously he worked in Kiev, Ukraine, editing a weekly news magazine on that country's economic and political development. He also worked for Columbia University writing on public health research.

Administrative Associate

Mary provides administrative and operational support to communications, outreach, events, and general administrative functions at the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy and its related centers supporting the Associate Director for Communications, Community Building and Outreach Programs and the Associate Director for Operations.

Mary joins our administrative team and brings extensive experience in academic and research environments along with 20 years of Stanford-specific experience back to the Farm. Mary returned to the Bay Area from Boise, Idaho where she was involved with business affairs and grant management at the Center for Ecohydraulics Research. While at Stanford, Mary worked with many departments and schools; including, Information Technology, the office of the Dean of Research, the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of Biological Sciences.

Precourt Energy Scholar, Stanford University; Co-Founder and CEO of NAUTO

Stefan Heck is a Precourt Energy Scholar at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, teaching courses and conducting research on innovation, energy, and resource economics.  He is also the Co-Founder and CEO of NAUTO, a company focused on solving urban mobility problems by building an information network for transportation.

At the Steyer-Taylor Center, Stefan will link the most compelling opportunities for transformational change articulated in his new book Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century to long-term investors, including proposing designs for new investment vehicles and modification of existing ones.

Previously he was a Director (senior partner) at McKinsey and he co-founded the Cleantech and Sustainability Transformations practices. Stefan has worked extensively with Fortune and Global 100 technology, industrial, infrastructure, building systems, retail, utility and energy companies across the US, China, Korea, Japan, India, and Europe.

Stefan is on the Innovation Advisory Board of United Technologies, the advisory board of New World Capital, and the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford.

Stefan received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from UCSD and a B.S. with honors in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University. His research focused on neural network algorithms and the neural basis of reasoning.

Energy Assessment Analyst

Emilie Hung joined GCEP as an Energy Assessment Analyst in 2003. Prior to this, she was an energy engineer with Emcor Energy Services in San Francisco evaluating energy systems and providing services for demand-side energy management, for example through energy efficiency. She also worked at LCG Consulting as an energy analyst, testing propriety software for the electric grid and supporting their energy consulting services. She has worked with a range of institutions including utilities, hospitals, municipalities, and industry.

Emilie holds a Masters of Engineering in Civil and Environmental Engineering from MIT and a Bachelor of Science in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of California and has served on the Board of Directors for GRID Alternatives since its inception in 2001.

Associate Director, Communications, Community Building and Outreach Programs

Leigh works closely with the faculty co-directors and staff to implement the institute’s vision and strategic direction. She manages a team who supports the energy research, education and outreach mission of the institute and Stanford broadly. The institute serves as the hub for over 200 faculty across the university who conduct energy research, students from Stanford’s seven schools, and staff from energy programs and centers across Stanford. Outreach activities engage stakeholders from industry, government and non-governmental organizations, academia and the Stanford alumni community in an energy ecosystem. Activities that serve this broad constituency include several annual conferences, topical workshops, student programs and the weekly Stanford Energy Seminar. The team covers energy news and information across the university through articles in Stanford Report, the institute's website, the monthly Stanford Energy News and social media.

Leigh started at Stanford in 2003 as project development director for the Provost Committee for the Environment, and as the first employee she served as associate director of programs at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment where she worked for seven years on a wide-range of entrepreneurial and programmatic activities. Prior to joining Stanford, Leigh worked in public relations at Regis McKenna Inc. and sales at IBM. Non-profit commitments have included: president of the Las Lomitas Education Foundation, president of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus Board of Directors, and docent for Y2E2 building tours.  Leigh holds an A.B. degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College.

Precourt Energy Scholar, Stanford University

Alexander A. Karsner was Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from 2005 to 2008. He is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Task Force on Energy Policy. He distinguished himself as a principal architect and contributor to international climate change deliberations toward achieving a post-2012 global energy framework and as America's top regulator for energy efficiency. He brings twenty years of experience in global energy development and project financing across a wide array of conventional and renewable sources. He served as CEO of the power development and consulting firm Enercorp, and both Director and Senior Development Manager for Wartsila Diesel. Mr. Karsner is currently on the Board of Directors of Argonne National Laboratory, Conservation International and Applied Materials. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Council on Competitiveness and a leader of the Energy Future Coalition.

Communications Manager and Outreach Liaison

Maxine organizes and leads the external and internal communication efforts for Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), a key center within Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE). Reporting to the PIE Program and Outreach Manager, she manages programs that develop the interaction between GCEP investigators, sponsors and students. These include the Distinguished Lecturer series which facilitates the in-depth exchange of information between GCEP's leading researchers and members of the Sponsors’ R & D organization, and the Student Energy Lectures where GCEP-funded students develop their public speaking skills and learn to convey their technical research results to a broader audience. She also helps to coordinate the GCEP annual research symposium and is responsible for the GCEP Quarterly newsletter, and the project's marketing materials and media requests.

Maxine was the second employee hired at GCEP in 2003. Prior to joining the Project, she worked as freelance producer in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and was the Creative Services Director at KTVU-TV, Channel 2, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She graduated with an A.B. degree in mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.

Energy Assessment Analyst

Jennifer Milne joined GCEP as an Energy Assessment Analyst in August 2007. Prior to this she was a post-doctoral Scholar at Stanford University in the Department of Biology and at the Carnegie Institution of Science, Department of Plant Biology, working with Chris Somerville on biomass related projects. Most of her work was focused on understanding the biosynthesis of plant cell walls and on finding ways to enhance biomass for use as a biofuel using biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetic tools.

She holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of York, UK, where her thesis work was focused on understanding the structure and function of stomatal guard cell walls and how opening and closing of the stomatal pore is related to wall composition. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Stirling, UK, graduating at the top of her class in 1997.

Milne has been involved in diverse projects related to science and the environment. She worked as an environmental economics research assistant at the Environmental Economics Research Group, Stirling University and was involved in a number of projects including studies on red deer in Scotland, and cost-benefit analysis of environmental trade-offs. She also worked with Unilever for a summer on the biophysics of plant materials, for which she received an award. Much of her work in plant biology and environmental economics has led to publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Web Developer

Lesley is the Web Developer for the Precourt Institute for Energy.  In this role, she is responsible for the maintenance and development of the Precourt website.  Before coming to Stanford, she was a Web Developer at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. 

Executive Assistant

Nancy is the executive assistant to Sally Benson, Director of both the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).  She supports her in all facets of her day-to-day working and administrative roles.

Nancy started at Stanford University in 2003 with the inception of GCEP and is known as “GCEP Employee #1.”  Before joining Stanford, she worked for many years as an administrative assistant at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.  She has a daughter and a son who are both graduates of Stanford University.

Communications & Energy Writer

Mark Shwartz has been part of the PIE communications team since 2011. His primary focus is to inform the public about the broad scope of energy technology research at Stanford through news releases, videos, electronic newsletters and the Web. Mark began his career at Stanford in 2000 as a science writer/videographer with the Stanford News Service. Before joining Stanford, he ran an independent TV production company, producing award-winning documentaries and news features for National Geographic Television, PBS, TBS and other broadcasters. Prior to that, he was a staff producer for NBC Nightly News and the Today Show, and an investigative producer with KRON-TV and KPIX-TV in San Francisco. Mark holds a B.A. in biology and a minor in journalism from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Web Developer

Clare is the web developer for the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC).  She is responsible for overseeing all technical aspects of these websites including database & website design, development, maintenance and ongoing support. She also manages the online email marketing  communication tool, creates HTML based emails and is responsible for online event registration & reporting.  

Prior to Stanford, Clare worked at Hewlett Packard where she was the technical support for over 200 internal business consultants.  She developed database and website interfaces, conducted server administration and provided all around technical support.  She has been a web developer for over 16 years.  She has a B.S. from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Program Associate

Sunny assists the Precourt Institute for Energy’s programs and outreach efforts. Her efforts are in support of developing and strengthening Stanford’s energy research, collaboration among energy programs and institutions on campus, and Stanford’s presence in energy research worldwide.

Prior to Precourt, Sunny served as communication specialist for the Freeman Spogli Institute’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. Sunny holds an MPP in Environmental Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in Public Administration with a minor in Speech Communication from California State University, Fullerton.

Associate Director of Development, Environment and Energy Programs

Clare Wildenborg is Associate Director of Development for Energy and Environment Programs at Stanford University. She originally joined Stanford’s Office of Development in 2005 as a member of the External Relations team at Stanford Law School and later served as the Assistant Director of External Relations for the Initiatives during The Stanford Challenge.

Clare earned a BA in English from Loras College in Dubuque, IA and an MA in English from Winona State University in Winona, MN.

Financial Management Analyst, GCEP & PEEC

Ingrid is the financial management analyst for the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC). She manages the financial aspects of all sponsored research awards for GCEP, including budgeting, proposal processing, administration, invoicing, reporting and analysis. She also administers some financial aspects of university research awards for PEEC.

Ingrid joined GCEP in 2007 and PEEC in 2010. Prior to coming to Stanford, she worked at various companies, including two high-tech startups in the Silicon Valley: Candescent Technologies Corp and Gemfire Corp. Ingrid earned a BA from Fudan University in Shanghai and an MA from Stanford University.

Event and Outreach Program Planner

Miki Yu joined Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE) as an Event and Outreach Program Planner.  In this role she will help shape the programs that PIE, TomKat Center and GCEP offer as they build greater visibility within the Stanford community, the energy community at large, and throughout the world.

Miki started at Stanford working for the Office of Development in 2002, where she reported to the Vice President’s office.  She then joined the Stanford Challenge Campaign as an initial team member, working with OOD partners and engaging volunteers and donors at every stage to build and direct momentum for The Stanford Challenge campaign.  She was instrumental in executing the Leading Matters component of the campaign, which achieved record breaking attendance and engagement results.