Sossina M. Haile

December 13, 2021

Sossina M. Haile is an Ethiopian-American scientist who pioneered the first solid acid fuel cells. She is a Materials Science and Engineering professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

Born on July 28, 1966, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her family fled Ethiopia during the mid ’70s coup after soldiers arrested and nearly killed her father, the Ethiopian historian Getatchew Haile. Sossina grew up in Minnesota.

She attended Saint John’s Preparatory School and graduated in 1983. While in school, Sossina received the AT&T Cooperative Research Fellowship and the Fulbright Fellowship to continue her studies. The Fulbright, along with a Humboldt Fellowship the following year, allowed her to study at the Max Palnck Institute für Festkörperforschung in Germany.

She went on to earn her B.S. and PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT (1992), as well as her M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Sossina took an assistant professorship at the University of Washington in Seattle, after getting her Ph.D.. She stayed there until 1996, when she joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology.

Her work focuses on solid state ionic materials and electronics, with an emphasis on energy technologies. She pioneered a new class of solid acid electrolyte fuel cells and achieved solid oxide fuel cell power levels that were previously unheard of.

Her more recent work on water and carbon dioxide dissociation for thermochemical solar fuel synthesis has opened up new possibilities for harnessing sunshine to fulfill energy demands. She has written over 150 articles and possesses over 15 patents linking to these and other topics.

Sossina now lives with her two children and spouse in southern California. She has received international recognition for developing new ways of using solar energy to make fuels like hydrogen and methane, but we don’t think that’s enough to expose the value she created and her contributions. We are proud to call her one of our own.

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