University of Colorado Boulder professor Gregor Henze knows what it’s like to watch the world change.
Henze was named a Fulbright scholar in 1989, moving from his home in West Berlin to study at Oregon State University three weeks before the Berlin Wall fell.
Now he’s watching the world — and his life — change again as a 2021 honoree of the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation, through which he will spend a semester in Australia working on renewable energy and digitalization. The program starts in February.
Henze said he still resonates with the Fulbright mission to develop better understanding between countries through the exchange of academics and research.
“I still think this is true and is more necessary than ever before,” he said. “As much as I’m going to Australia to be someone who provides value from a research perspective, I also think the primary attitude should be one of a student and learning from them and bringing that back.”
Henze’s work focuses on the “three Ds” of renewable energy — decarbonization, distribution and digitalization.
In Australia, he will work with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on those three areas, including the challenge of distributing energy, connecting relatively few customers per square mile to an energy system and using data to study how energy is consumed and predict what energy needs will be in the future.
“With more data we have more capability, and that’s an effort Australia is hoping I can contribute to,” Henze said.
Fulbright programs are also about being an ambassador to another country and culture, which Henze did once as a German citizen in the United States and now again as a dual citizen in Australia.
“Now we face so many confrontations that being an ambassador of your country to another country is, in a way, a little more challenging and a more multifaceted endeavor,” he said. “I’m trying to promulgate and promote a sense of U.S. excellence in research and development and hopefully convey a positive image of America, which was a little battered over the past eight years.”
Henze said he hopes his time in Australia will open the door to future collaborations between American and Australian researchers at CU Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“We are very different, but I think we can aspire to a better way of being different, that we embrace and appreciate diversity instead of just tolerating people who are different from us,” he said.