Iain McCulloch named Andlinger Center director, joins Princeton ECE faculty

Written by
Colton Poore, for the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Sept. 27, 2023

Iain McCulloch, a chemist who has produced numerous breakthroughs at the intersection of energy, electronics and biology, has been named the next director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. He will join the Princeton faculty as a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Both appointments will take effect January 16, 2024.

McCulloch comes to Princeton and the Andlinger Center from the University of Oxford, where he is a professor of polymer chemistry. He previously served as director of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Solar Center and co-directed a center for plastic electronics at Imperial College London, following nearly two decades leading various industrial labs.

“Iain is a visionary and collaborative leader who will significantly enhance the Andlinger Center’s research portfolio and impact in advancing sustainable technologies,” said Andrea Goldsmith, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “His own research excellence, technology transfer success, industry experience, and successful track record of leading interdisciplinary teams to address the biggest environmental challenges facing humanity add significant value to our Andlinger Center, the school of engineering, Princeton, and the entire region. We are extremely fortunate to have Iain as the next director of our Andlinger Center.”

McCulloch will succeed Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering and professor of chemical and biological engineering. Loo formally stepped down as director in 2021, and Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has served as interim director for the past two years. Gmachl led the international search for a new director.

“A commitment to collaborative, translational research is woven into the charter of the Andlinger Center,” said Gmachl. “Iain has a strong track record of cutting across disciplinary silos to transform breakthrough research into scalable, real-world solutions. He is also an incredibly gifted team builder who routinely forges new collaborations in both the academic and industry arenas. I have no doubt that he will continue to grow the Andlinger Center’s impact on national and international energy and environmental research.”

As a materials chemist, McCulloch has dedicated his career to designing and developing unique carbon-based polymers that are central to a wide range of innovative technologies, from electronics to renewable energy. His translational work has facilitated critical advances in the fields of optics, electronics, energy, and biological sensing, and many of the materials he invented have become the standard for research use around the world. His breakthrough work to develop new materials for solar cells, for example, reinvigorated research interest into organic solar cells, an alternative technology to conventional silicon-based solar cells, after progress to boost their efficiency had stagnated. Another line of McCulloch’s research has yielded an entirely new way of harnessing solar energy to generate valuable products such as hydrogen, a sustainable way to support the growing hydrogen economy.

Throughout his academic career, McCulloch has drawn from his extensive background in industry, in which he led labs in New Jersey and the United Kingdom to design, develop and commercialize polymers for applications including solar cells, electronics and drug delivery. His firsthand industry experience provides him with a broad perspective not only on how to develop cutting-edge materials, but also on how to efficiently scale those materials for widespread societal impact. Such a commitment to translating innovative research into real-world solutions is a key tenet of the Andlinger Center’s mission.

“The Andlinger Center’s interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is what we need more of in academia,” McCulloch said. “I see incredible potential for the Andlinger Center to continue advancing the global energy transition, and I look forward to working with faculty members, early-career and student researchers, and industry experts to contribute to the Andlinger Center’s existing expertise and help expand its reach into new and exciting energy and environmental horizons.”

McCulloch received both a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Strathclyde. Following his roles in industry, he joined Imperial College London as Professor of Polymer Materials in 2007 and moved to Oxford in 2020. From 2014 to 2021, McCulloch was concurrently appointed as Professor of Chemical Science at KAUST and served as director of the KAUST Solar Center from 2016 to 2021.

McCulloch was recognized in 2011 as one of the top materials scientists in the world between 2000-2010 and has been named on the Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers list every year since its inception. Among other achievements, McCulloch is a fellow of the Royal Society, the European Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.