Originally published by the UF College of Engineering’s Powering the New Engineer in April 2017.
With a vision for transforming the future of sustainable energy, serial entrepreneur and University of Florida alumnus Alex Moreno just invested $3 million to help create a new professorship and program in the department of chemical engineering.
“My education in chemical engineering prepared me to advance my own companies, and now I’m grateful to be in the position to give back,” says Moreno. “With this initiative, my hope is that UF can further move society forward by exploring and creating more bold solutions for our energy needs, and by educating the next generation of engineers who will lead in this area.”
With Moreno’s support, the college will move forward with an integrated energy program, accessible to students across all engineering majors, that will offer a certificate and minor in energy systems. Course offerings will include an introduction to biofuels, petroleum engineering, electric energy systems, reactor analysis and computation, energy conversion, clean combustion, sustainable energy systems and more. New research expenditures in the program are expected to reach $2-2.5M per year, with an estimated 24 new peer-reviewed publications and 3-5 Ph.D. graduates annually. The senior faculty member hired to lead this new energy systems program will be appointed as the new Alex Moreno Endowed Professor in Energy.
A Distinguished Alumnus of the department, a frequent guest lecturer, and a member of its external advisory board, Moreno is an enthusiastic supporter of chemical engineering. After graduating from UF, Moreno worked at General Electric’s Chemical Metallurgical Management Program, a highly selective management training program. From there he entered the MBA program at Harvard University. He has since launched a number of companies and projects, ranging from environmental services, healthcare staffing, and construction and development. He is currently the CEO and cofounder of Nightingale Nurses, one of the largest healthcare staffing companies in the country. He’s also the CEO and founder of Panther Development Investments, which provides consulting services to Native American nations, particularly in the areas of energy development, infrastructure and financing. In 2015 he received UF’s department of chemical engineering’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award.
“We are fortunate to have Alex in our Gator Engineering family,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “He shares our vision for transforming the future of energy, and he knows very clearly the kind of resources it will take to make that happen. He has been very generous in supporting this program, and we are very grateful to partner with him.”
The new energy systems program and the number of UF’s world-renowned faculty in the areas of energy research are expected to grow from additional support provided by the state of Florida, the university, and private donors.
“With this kind of strategic and transformative investment from a distinguished chemical engineering alumnus, we are poised to make a major impact on new technologies and in engineering education,” said Richard Dickinson, chair of the department. “We will continue to expand our role as a national and international leader in energy research.”
Moreno’s gift is the largest private commitment made to the department of chemical engineering since it was founded more than 75 years ago. Funding for the department from contracts and grants typically exceeds $4.5 million per year, with support coming from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Energy.