Binghamton University was in the spotlight in the 2023 State of the Union Address.
M. Stanley Whittingham, a distinguished professor of chemistry at BU and a 2019 Nobel Prize Laureate, attended the speech as the guest of New York State Senator Charles Schumer. Known for his work on the development of the lithium-ion battery, Whittingham has earned the reputation of a prolific scientist, according to his University biography. The invitation comes after BU’s “New Energy New York” project — which Whittingham is spearheading — was awarded 63.7 million from the Energy Development Administration (EDA) and $50 million from New York state.
Whittingham expressed gratitude toward the invitation and spoke to the larger ramifications of his appearance.
“I think it’s an honor for me [to be invited], but it’s also an honor for the University [and] it’s an honor for the area that he’s recognizing Binghamton as one of his guests this evening,” Whittingham said. “It gets us on the map, it gets us visibility [and] every little bit more visibility we can get is good for everybody.”
Jessica Li, the president of Undergraduate Chemical Society [UCS] and a junior majoring in chemistry, discussed how Whittingham’s presence at the address compliments the research work done at BU.
“Dr. Whittingham joining the State of the Union Address is great,” Li said. “[BU] does some amazing research, especially with the emphasis on our chemistry and material science departments’ work. The high impact of [Whittingham’s] work revolutionized portability of electronics and the usage of long-lasting and lightweight lithium-ion batteries that essentially exist in all portable electronics now.”
According to a press release from his office, Schumer was persistent in advocating for BU’s proposal to the federal government, calling the commerce secretary multiple times. Schumer described the benefits that would come to the Southern Tier and Upstate New York, saying that it would “[breathe] new life into [the] region’s industrial and innovation legacy.”
Schumer expressed praise toward Whittingham’s work and research, and emphasized what he sees as legislative progress on global competitiveness and climate change in the last Congressional session.
“Dr. Whittingham’s work has helped revolutionize the world of batteries and our energy economy,” Schumer said in a press release. “It continues to this day in the Southern Tier and is even more integral as we seek to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas and power the fight against climate change. Binghamton and the Southern Tier have a national spotlight and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to power the future of battery research and manufacturing for America thanks to the historic federal investment I was able to help Upstate New York secure.”
Mia Hollstein, a freshman majoring in biology, described her feelings toward the importance of energy research and its connections to politics.
“I think it is very interesting that Whittingham went to the State of the Union Address and that Schumer was encouraging [U.S. President Joe Biden] to mention him and his research in the speech,” Hollstein said. “I see that as great recognition for the research he conducted here. I think working toward a more sustainable solution in battery production is extremely important with the increasing digitization of almost everything in society.”
First coming to the University in 1988, Whittingham has experience in both the public and private sectors. At BU, he helped to establish the Materials Science and Engineering Program. Senator Schumer declared that leaders like Whittingham represent Binghamton’s ability to power the nation’s electric future.
Whittingham spoke about his belief in working at a public university, and how BU bears social responsibility in Broome County.
“So clearly, one of [BU’s] charters as a public university is to help the state and to help the region,” Whittingham said. “We’re in a particularly good position being really the dominant economic force in Broome County to help the region, and we have to do it as a state entity. We can’t sit in our ivory towers.”