Dr. Laura Schaefer’s research centers on the analysis, design and optimization of energy systems, with an emphasis on improving energy efficiency and diversification for increased sustainability. This area of research is rapidly becoming even more important, since our energy requirements are growing while our natural resources are being depleted. To that end, Dr. Schaefer’s research approach has been to examine energy systems both from a fundamentals viewpoint and in a societal/environmental context. These systems include absorption cycles, fuel cells, two-phase microchannel flow, multijunction solar cells, hydrokinetics, and thermoacoustics. Although these topics may initially seem disparate, they are unified through the application of rigorous thermofluid modeling techniques (including the lattice Boltzmann method) both on the small scale and at the continuum level.
Dr. Schaefer’s research has received over $11 million in funding by organizations such as NSF, AFOSR, ASHRAE, PITA, and NCIIA.
Dr. Schaefer received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (1995) and a B.A. in English (1995) from Rice University, and her M.S. (1997) and Ph.D. (2000) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She was a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh from 2000-2015, where she was also a Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellow, Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, and Associate Director of the Center for Energy. Dr. Schaefer was a Visiting Researcher in the Energy Futures Laboratory at Imperial College in London in 2011-2012. She joined the faculty at Rice in 2015.
Dr. Schaefer received a Career Award from NSF and a New Investigator Award from ASHRAE. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments, an Associate Editor of the ASME Journal of Energy Resources Technology, and a past Chair of the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME.