Hibbitts Named Holder of the Moreno Rising Star Professorship

David Hibbitts, Ph.D.

In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, the University of Florida Department of Chemical Engineering, Carlos M. Rinaldi-Ramos, Ph.D., Chair and Dean’s Leadership Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Cammy R. Abernathy, Ph.D., Dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, have named Assistant Professor David Hibbitts, Ph.D., as holder of the Moreno Rising Star Professorship for his contributions to develop atomic-level understanding of heterogeneous catalysts by combining kinetic and isotopic experiments with computational chemistry. This is the first of two Moreno Rising Star Professorships in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

“I’m very grateful to Alex Moreno and his family for endowing this professorship. I’m also grateful to the department and the Dean for selecting me,” said Dr. Hibbitts. “I will continue to work hard to discover and design innovative materials for energy systems.”

Dr. Hibbitts’ Catalysis Lab focuses on reactions that convert methane and biomass-derived compounds into value-added fuels and chemicals, researches novel catalysts to reduce polluting emissions in car exhausts, and trains well-rounded students who understand practical and fundamental issues in heterogeneous catalysis.

He obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Clemson University in 2007, his doctoral degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia in 2012, and a post doc position in chemical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. Hibbitts received an NSF CAREER Award in 2019, and the University of Florida’s Excellence Award for Assistant Professors in 2020.

“David is an outstanding early career scientist in the field of catalysis. His research seeks to provide fundamental insights into catalytic mechanisms and catalyst design through computer simulations. We are delighted to award the first Moreno Rising Star Professorship to David,” said Dr. Rinaldi.

A desire to invest in the University of Florida and a vision for transforming the future of sustainable energy led distinguished alumnus Alejandro “Alex” Moreno (BSCHE ’83) to award $1M to the Department of Chemical Engineering to establish two Moreno Rising Star Professorships. The professorships are a part of Moreno’s $5.2M gift to the department. The professorships are intended for early career faculty who are demonstrating excellence in engineering research and teaching.

Moreno is an enthusiastic supporter of the Department of Chemical Engineering – a Distinguished Alumnus of the department, a frequent guest lecturer, and a member of its external advisory board. 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, to construction and development. He is currently the CEO and cofounder of ProSolus, Inc., a pharmaceutical company that specializes in transdermal patch development. He’s also the CEO and founder of Nightingale Nurses, one of the largest healthcare staffing companies in the country, and Panther Development Investments, which provides consulting services to Native American nations, particularly in the areas of energy development, infrastructure and financing. In 2018, Moreno was honored with the UF Distinguished Alumnus Award, and the Gator100 Pinnacle Award in recognition of his success as an entrepreneur and steadfast support of the university.