Dr. Radenka Maric is the Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and CT Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Material Science & Engineering at the University of Connecticut and UConn Health, with responsibility for research leadership and technology commercialization of one of the top twenty-five public research universities in the United States, including its academic medical center.
Dr. Maric has been awarded more than $40 million in research funding, has published more than 300 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings, two books under preparation, 21 book chapters or invited review articles in major journals, six issued patents, along with 11 published patent disclosures.
She is an experienced, respected scientist with a background in academia, industry, national labs, and federal agencies in the US and abroad. The hallmark of her research is efficient and sustainable use of precious metals in demanding reactions, such as proton exchange fuel cells, alkaline fuel cells, and the water-gas shift reforming reactions. She has developed novel materials and structures to improve durability and performance at the cell and system level in fuel cells and batteries.
Dr. Maric graciously agreed to share her thoughts regarding SCINQ’s Big Question.
What is the role of the scientist in society?
Scientists seek validated facts, expanded knowledge, and sound information that they can share with a variety of stakeholders – from policymakers to physicians to regular citizens.
The knowledge scientists provide can help our society make more informed decisions, enhance cross-cultural connections, and foment even more investigation and discovery from others in the scientific community.
Often this scientific and technological innovation has significant positive effects in our collective efforts to address the “grand challenges” of our time, like climate change, energy independence, personalized medicine, fighting the global pandemic, and other societal problems.
We live in an “information age” where almost everyone has access to learn about new scientific breakthroughs and developments. Science and its resulting discoveries ignore borders, and more than ever, scientists have the ability to share this new knowledge, both with their academic peers and the general public. This has undoubtedly brought great benefits to society and has deeply changed the relationships that can exist between researchers, entrepreneurs, governments, and the media.
As we bridge the gap between science and the public, we metaphorically let people into our labs and our experiments. Transparency and sharing of information allows for the creation of new companies, new products, and new collaborations that benefit society.
How can the scientist fulfill that role best?
For scientists to serve as truth seekers in service to the community, we need to continue to innovate in the areas of greatest need for our society, to educate the public about our work and how it could improve their lives, and to bring science closer to citizens so the true value of our work is clear.