Ranga Pitchumani, the George R. Goodson Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named the editor-in-chief of Solar Energy, the official journal of the International Solar Energy Society, published by Elsevier. Pitchumani’s selection follows an international search to lead the flagship journal in the field of solar energy.

Pitchumani has served in several leadership roles. Prior to joining the faculty of Virginia Tech, he was the head of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut, during which time the department increased research expenditures by 69 percent and was the top graduate program among public universities in New England, according to U.S. News & World Report.

At Virginia Tech, he served as the associate department head for research in mechanical engineering from 2009 until 2013, leading research expenditure growth of 25 percent to $19.1 million annually and securing fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education that enabled doctoral student enrollment growth of 35 percent.

An internationally recognized authority on energy, Pitchumani has served as the U.S. representative on the International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES executive committee and on the advisory board of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative of ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. In October 2020, he was one of six invited panelists from across the world in the VAIBHAV Energy Summit convened by the Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

From 2011 to 2015, at the invitation of the then Energy Secretary Steven P. Chu, Pitchumani served as the chief scientist for the SunShot initiative, a grand challenge that he helped formulate at the U.S. Department of Energy. In his role, he defined bold national goals for achieving cost-competitive solar energy technologies and their ubiquitous integration into the electric grid. This yielded a 75 percent reduction in the cost of solar energy systems in 2017, three years earlier than planned.

For his leadership in the development of cost-effective solar energy, Pitchumani was recognized by the American Solar Energy Society with the prestigious Hoyt Clarke Hottel Award in 2017.

In his current position, Pitchumani directs the Advanced Materials and Technologies Laboratory, engaging a multidisciplinary approach to energy and sustainability. His research funding has come from many sources, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research, Department of Energy, Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and industries. A prolific scholar, Pitchumani has co-authored over 240 articles with his research group. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; a distinguished alumnus of his alma mater, the Indian institute of Technology, Bombay; and serves on the editorial boards of several journals in the fields of energy and materials.

“Solar Energy is the premier journal in the field with a long legacy spanning over six decades,” said Pitchumani. “To be selected to steward this illustrious journal is quite humbling.” 

Pitchumani sees significant growth of the journal in the coming years. “We are at a turning point in history where, by any means, solar energy is rapidly growing and will be a major part of our sustainable future. The declining costs of solar energy present tremendous opportunities for innovation in diverse areas and also pose significant challenges that touch multiple disciplines. I see Solar Energy as the leading forum for the confluence of scientific advances from the various disciplines to create solutions that don’t exist today.”