Jeff Henley Interview with the Institute for Energy Efficiency and UCSB College of Engineering

Jeff Henley Interview with the Institute for Energy Efficiency and UCSB College of Engineering

Convergence Magazine invited three leaders in academia, industry, and research to discuss the future of discovery and achievement at UC Santa Barbara. What emerged from their conversation was a shared notion that UCSB is poised to compete as a top institution in an increasingly global and cross-disciplinary research arena in science and technology.


JEFF HENLEY, CHAIRMAN OF ORACLE, spoke with Rod Alferness, Dean of the College of Engineering, and John Bowers, Director of the Institute for Energy Efficiency, about why he and his wife invested $50 million in engineering and the sciences at UCSB — and how this is the beginning of an era of re-investment in the UC system.

(excerpts from article below, to read full interview and see video click here)

: Jeff, when you announced that gift you spoke with great passion about your view of the importance of the UC system, the importance of UCSB, and of engineering and science.

HENLEY: I do consider this an investment more than a gift. I went to school here in the 60s and worked 45 years so far in a career at seven companies, but my last 21 have been at Oracle. I’ve been in and out of tech as a business person. It’s been clear to me more and more over the years that virtually all the progress we’ve made since the Industrial Revolution has come through science and engineering.

There have been entrepreneurs who made an impact, changes in business models, and other factors. But underpinning all this, progress has been driven by science and engineering. And I think it’s going to continue.

Fortunately for the UC system, and for UC Santa Barbara specifically, we’ve always had great science and engineering programs. This is by far the largest investment I’ve made. It’s because I really do believe this is so important for the future of the world: To keep attracting, educating, and retaining top scientists and top engineers.

Remembering UC Santa Barbara in the 1960s

ALFERNESS: Jeff, tell us about your days as a student at UC Santa Barbara.

HENLEY: I came here 50 years ago. My mom drove me up and dropped me off. I actually was going to go to the Air Force Academy. My dad had been in the service in World War II and so I just thought “gee, I should go to the AFA.” I was accepted and I had a medical problem, so I couldn’t go. And the only other place I had applied to was UC Santa Barbara. I’d never visited it. Back in those days you don’t do all those campus visits that you do today. It was a couple hundred miles from where I lived in Orange County, so it wasn’t that far away.

I’ll never forget my mom driving me out to Ward Memorial Highway and dropped me off, I’m looking around on a nice, sunny September day and thinking “I think this is going to work out,” and it did. I never regretted my four years here. It was a phenomenal period. I think I actually got higher grades than I did in high school, so I was very motivated. I became a lot more intellectually stimulated going here. I made the Dean’s list my first semester and I graduated with Honors. But I guarantee you I had a great time, too.

Going away to school like that for four years, it’s a growing social experience as well as an intellectual challenge. I felt like I got a good balanced education and I’ve never regretted it. There’s no place I would have rather gone, so I was very lucky to fall into it and had a great experience.

Accelerating Energy Efficiency

Alferness: John, can you share your views about the research thrusts within the Institute for Energy Efficiency, its direction, and its importance both on campus and worldwide?

BOWERS: The problem we have as a society is that we waste more energy than we use. So, there’s a great opportunity here to use our precious resources of oil and coal and other fossil fuels more efficiently. We’ve done this, in what is the best materials department in the country, using materials to solve the fundamental limitations. This started with a bunch of groups, but Shuji Nakamura, the inventor of the blue LED, is a good example of solving a fundamental problem that has led to breakthroughs in gallium nitride semiconductor technology.

We’ve gone on to a host of other materials, more efficient solar cells, such as the work with professors Alan Heeger and Guillermo Bazan. More importantly, we’re looking now at data centers and making data centers more energy efficient. We’re working closely with Oracle, Google, Hewlett Packard, and others to solve the problem. Some of that has been work like the hybrid silicon laser to solve the problem that silicon does not emit light.

Other examples are the great Solid State Lighting group is very constrained in terms of abilities to characterize new solid state LEDs. We have a big need to characterize solid state refrigerators and passive cooling systems. Our goal is to use these new laboratories [funded by the Henleys’ gift] to investigate that area. It’s going to have a huge impact.

The Institute has had a lot of great involvement with students. Engineers Without Borders and Unite to Light are two groups of people that taking these technologies and using them out in the world and we can really make things much better.

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