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Royal Dutch Shell sends senior scientist to MIT

Richard A. Sears
Richard A. Sears
Photo courtesy / Shell

MIT and Royal Dutch Shell today announced that Richard A. Sears, most recently Shell's vice president for exploration and deepwater technical evaluation, has joined MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE) as a visiting scientist. This three-year appointment, a first for the company, will strengthen ties between the MIT and Shell research communities and enhance opportunities for developing innovative solutions to the world's mounting energy problems.

"MIT has a long tradition of working with technology-based industry," said Ernest J. Moniz, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at MIT, co-director of the LFEE, and former undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Energy (1997 to 2001).

"The relationship is most effective when there is active dialogue between the parties," he said. "Having Rich Sears here for an extended period will provide practical insight for our faculty and students into the research needs of an international energy company and will provide Shell with opportunities to broaden its research portfolio."

The Sears appointment dovetails with a major new Institute-wide energy initiative at MIT, announced by President Susan Hockfield in her May 2005 inaugural address. A 16-member Energy Research Council (ERC) has been working to help determine how MIT scientists, engineers and social scientists can best address such issues as increased global energy consumption and new routes to renewable and sustainable energy.

"The challenge to sustainably meet growing global demands for energy will require the integration of leading-edge technologies," said John Darley, Shell Exploration and Production's executive vice president for technology. "Both MIT and Shell have a proud heritage of technical excellence, and this new appointment will further enhance an effective working relationship between the two organizations."

Shell has committed approximately $4 million in research funding to MIT in areas related to exploration and production. The research draws on MIT expertise in fields ranging from geology, geophysics and seismology to artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

In his role as visiting scientist, Sears will bring his industry perspective to the lab and will serve as a resource to MIT faculty and research staff.

"I'm looking forward to being in the MIT environment," Sears said. "The technical breadth and depth of MIT will offer new perspectives and fresh approaches that will broaden our understanding and impact on the future of energy in the world."

Sears has significant domestic and international experience in oil and gas exploration and discovery, and he is a leading expert in the search for and development of new hydrocarbon resources in the deep ocean (water depths of more than 500 meters). Since joining Shell in 1976, he has held technical and management positions in the United States and Europe.

About LFEE

The LFEE is a focal point for energy and environmental activities at MIT. Home to more than a dozen centers, groups and programs, the lab brings together collaborating faculty and staff in 13 departments to carry out multidisciplinary research relating to energy and the environment.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 1, 2006 (download PDF).

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