Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Co., Los Angeles, and the Wonderful Halos brand, pledged $750 million to The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., to support cutting-edge research in environmental sustainability. The commitment, part of Caltech's Break Through campaign, is said to be the largest environmental sustainability research in Caltech's history, and the second-largest gift to a U.S. academic institution.

"In order to comprehensively manage the climate crisis, we need breakthrough innovations, the kind that will only be possible through significant investment in university research," says Stewart, chairman and president of The Wonderful Co. and a senior member of the Caltech board of trustees. "Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water and sustainability."

This commitment will support Caltech's investigators, as they pursue research in solar science, climate science, energy, biofuels, decomposable plastics, water and environmental resources and ecology and biosphere engineering. Ultimately, this initiative will bring together experts from across the physical sciences, life sciences and engineering. Working in shared facilities with access to unparalleled instrumentation, Caltech scientists and engineers will advance novel solutions to problems that extend beyond a single discipline.

"Sustainability is the challenge of our times," says Thomas Rosenbaum, president of Caltech. "Stewart and Lynda Resnick's generosity and vision will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change. The Resnick Sustainability Institute will now be able to mount efforts at scale, letting researchers across campus follow their imaginations and translate fundamental discovery into technologies that dramatically advance solutions to society's most pressing problems."

In recognition of the investment, Caltech will construct a new 75,000-square-foot building to be named the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. The center, which will serve as the hub for energy and sustainability research on campus as well as the home of state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching laboratories, will amplify and expand the work of the Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI).

This new pledge will support four core research initiatives:

  • Sunlight to everything, which will focus on building smarter electricity infrastructure and converting the sun's energy into fuels and other chemicals;
  • Climate science, which will advance efforts in measurement and modeling meant to identify the largest effects of climate change, and efforts in mitigation and adaptation to offset some of the impact of carbon emissions;
  • Water resources, which will ensure that this vital resource is managed most effectively through the mapping and monitoring of surface and sub-surface water, together with improvements in water treatment and reuse; and
  • Global ecology and biosphere engineering, which will consider the biosphere and its response to climate change, engineering ways in which microbes may help plants adapt to the changing climate and how best to use biological tools to improve water and nutrient use.

Facilities at the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center will include laboratories focused on ecology and biosphere engineering and translational science and engineering, as well as a solar science and catalysis center, a high-performance computing center, a water and environment lab and a remote sensing center. The Resnick Sustainability Resource Center will also feature lecture and interaction spaces as well as new state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching labs.