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New Faculty Member, 2023–24

Zach Berkson

Assistant Professor, chemical engineering

Zach Berkson has always had an interest in sustainability and the environment, which he says comes partly from growing up near the woods and wetlands of southern Indiana.

“I started as an environmental science major at Indiana University, but I wasn’t interested in the policy aspects,” Berkson says. “I expressed my frustrations to one of my professors, a civil engineer who suggested I might like engineering since it’s more focused on problem solving.”

As Indiana University didn’t have an engineering program, Berkson transferred to the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

“I liked chemistry because there’s an elegant visual element,” he says. “You learn how atoms and molecules fit together, like building blocks. So, I chose a chemical engineering program without really knowing what chemical engineering was. I found I was learning exciting things that are central to how the world functions.”

Berkson, who is currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, will be returning to ASU in January 2024 as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

“What attracted me to the position is the school’s focus on clean energy and sustainability,” Berkson says. “The ways that we interact with our environment are changing rapidly, and we, as a society, need to rethink how we do things at every level, from teaching and research to industry. This will require innovation, creativity and inclusive cooperation – all of which ASU deliberately emphasizes.”

He is excited to explore and develop new technologies for sustainable processes.

“We have amazing scientific tools for understanding and characterizing interfacial phenomena, which are crucial for the production and utilization of chemicals, fuels, and energy,” Berkson says. “When we understand these processes in detail at a molecular level, we can learn to control them, which I believe is the route to unlocking transformative sustainable technologies.” 

Berkson intends for his classes to incorporate how science and engineering impact everyday life. In particular, he is excited to teach about challenges and solutions for sustainability, particularly as they pertain to energy – how it’s produced, transformed and utilized.

When he is not educating future sustainable engineers, Berkson’s other interests include science fiction, tabletop games and hiking.

Meet the newest faculty members of the Fulton Schools of Engineering here.

Written by Erik Wirtanen

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