Research Mission

research icon round UC Berkeley is consistently rated among the top institutions in the world for the quality and breadth of its research programs, the distinction of its faculty, and the excellence of its Ph.D. programs. Berkeley’s strength includes particular expertise in addressing pressing global challenges such as health, energy, and the environment, receiving $714 million in research contracts and grants in 2011/12.

There are at least 200 faculty engaged in sustainability research in almost half of the departments on campus. The research is diverse and influential, as these examples from campus publications clearly show.

Campus Performance Overview

Spotlight: Research Projects

Study says California solar boom makes the state a national leader, prepares new generation of workers

Kathleen Maclay, Berkeley News, November 10, 2014.

“Strong statewide and federal clean-energy policies have positioned California as the nation’s solar energy leader in terms of generating new, well-paying construction and permanent jobs while working to curb climate change, according to a new report by UC Berkeley.  The Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy at Berkeley found that California’s use of electricity from renewable sources increased from 11 percent in 2008 to nearly 20 percent in 2013. The center’s report, ‘Environmental and Economic Benefits of Building Solar in California’ notes that more than 15,000 new jobs have been created over the last five years by California’s solar-farm construction boom, with workers building solar arrays earning on average $78,000 a year plus health and other benefits."

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

Robert Sanders, Berkeley Research, March 11, 2015

“UC Berkeley chemists have made a major leap forward in carbon-capture technology with a material that can efficiently remove carbon from the ambient air of a submarine as readily as from the polluted emissions of a coal-fired power plant.”

Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western U.S. carbon-negative

Robert Sanders, Berkeley Research, February 9, 2015

“Generating electricity from biomass, such as urban waste and sustainably-sourced forest and crop residues, is one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because it is carbon-neutral: it produces as much carbon as the plants suck out of the atmosphere. A new UC Berkeley study shows that if biomass electricity production is combined with carbon capture and sequestration in the western United States, power generators could actually store more carbon than they emit and make a critical contribution to an overall zero-carbon future by the second half of the 21st century.”

Researcher calls report on economic impacts of U.S. climate change ‘like a flashlight at night’

Kathleen Maclay, Berkeley Research, June 24, 2014

“UC Berkeley, economist and assistant professor of public policy Solomon Hsiang led the econometrics team that helped assemble a major report released [in June 2014] that projects significant economic risks from climate change in the United States.”

Teen girls see big drop in chemical exposure with switch in cosmetics  

Sarah Yang, NewsCenter, March 7, 2016

“A new study led by researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas demonstrates how even a short break from certain kinds of makeup, shampoos and lotions can lead to a significant drop in levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the body.”

Reverse Cycle: Inspired by Leaves, a New Invention Turns Sunlight and Water into Fuel

Chelsea Leu, California Magazine, Spring 2015

“For the past ten years, Peidong Yang has been trying to make like a tree. Yang, a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry, researches artificial photosynthesis, a process that mimics a leaf’s ability to convert sun, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel. But in his case, the fuel isn’t glucose – it’s gasoline.“

The search for smarter energy and water strategies

Wallace Ravven, Berkeley Research, April 25, 2016

“As the changing climate disrupts familiar weather patterns, many countries face a dual threat: swamping along the coasts, but also unexpected shrinking freshwater supplies in many regions.  ‘Water has never been evenly distributed around the world, but droughts and an alarming decrease in groundwater create potentially catastrophic conditions,’ says Ashok Gadgil, Deputy for Science and Technology for the Energy Technologies Area at LBNL and professor of environmental engineering at UC Berkeley.”

Seafloor Carpet Catches Waves To Generate Electricity

Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations, January 28, 2014

“What do champion surfers who gathered at last week’s Mavericks Invitational have in common with a UC Berkeley engineer? They all are looking to harness the power of big ocean waves. But the similarities end there. For assistant professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, the seafloor ‘carpet’ he is proposing will convert ocean waves into usable energy. ‘There is a vast amount of untapped energy in the oceans, and with increasing worldwide demand for power, the need to find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels is critical,’ said Alam. ‘We are also seeing greater population growth along coastal cities, so the ocean-based system we are developing would produce electricity in a carbon-neutral way right where it is needed.’”

Sub-Urban Sprawl Cancels Carbon-Footprint Savings Of Dense Urban Cores

Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley Media Relations, January 6, 2014

“According to a new study by UC Berkeley researchers, population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse-gas emissions per person than other areas of the country, but these cities’ extensive suburbs essentially wipe out the climate benefits. Dominated by emissions from cars, trucks and other forms of transportation, suburbs account for about 50 percent of all household emissions – largely carbon dioxide – in the United States. The study… uses local census, weather and other data – 37 variables in total – to approximate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the energy, transportation, food, goods and services consumed by U.S. households, so-called household carbon footprints.”

STARS Performance Overview

Research Category

According to STARS, "This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are conducting research on sustainability topics. Conducting research is a major function of many colleges and universities. By researching sustainability issues and refining theories and concepts, higher education institutions can continue to help the world understand sustainability challenges and develop new technologies, strategies, and approaches to address those challenges."

Berkeley's STARS Performance

Total Points Available: 18.00

Research Points Claimed: 17.33




Research and Scholarship

11.33 / 12.00

Support for Research

4.00 / 4.00

Open Access to Research

2.00 / 2.00

  • UC Berkeley is a research powerhouse in a wide range of disciplines, and its work in energy and sustainability research is changing the world.
  • Combined with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which the university manages, the campus is solving urgent energy and climate challenges such as how to better design energy distribution systems and the most viable biofuels.


  • It comes as no surprise then that UC Berkeley scored in the top quartile among all universities in the STARS Research category, winning 17.33 out of 18 points.
  • Doctoral and research institutions on average captured 80 percent of available points in the field, compared to 96 percent of points won by UC Berkeley in the Research category.


  • Fifty-seven percent of UC Berkeley’s 1,248 faculty and staff who are engaged in research investigate environmental, social or economic sustainability topics, as defined by STARS.
  • The work of diverse research groups, departments and topic-based centers support sustainability research across campus, state, and country, informing policy decisions. 

Research Highlights

UC Berkeley faculty and researchers are leading the way in energy, climate, and environment research. See the latest developments here.

Search for faculty and researchers with expertise in particular areas here.

Campanile through the trees

Check out Peidong Yang’s presentation: “Can we create ‘liquid sunlight’ by converting carbon dioxide and water into new chemical fuels?”