Xiangkun (Elvis) Cao, Ph.D.

Impact Fellow@MIT, Forbes 30U30

Forbes | Lindau | WEC | UNEP | UNICEF | INK | EarthX | BP | OYW | Wiki | LinkedIn | Twitter | Scholar | SISE


11/01/2021: Glad to see my SDG Blog "Impacting climate as a young innovator" published by UN DESA!

09/22/2021: Delighted to be featured as an Impact Fellow in the inaugural cohort by the MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium!

05/17/2021: Honored to be selected into the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders programme (FEL-100).

02/11/2021: Contributed a blog to Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

06/02/2020: Selected as a Young Changemaker on Sustainable WASH Solutions by UNICEF!

05/27/2020: Highlighted in the World Economic Forum's white paper for global energy innovations.

03/02/2020: Selected as a Young Scientist Attendee (660 worldwide) for the 70th Lindau Nobel Meeting!

05/16/2019: Named as one of the five "Young Champions of the Earth" Finalists in North America by UNEP!

11/13/2018: Landed on Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy for North America!


Academic Curriculum Vitae | Business Résumé | LinkedIn

I am currently an Impact Fellow (1 of 8 globally) at the MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium (MCSC) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hatton Research Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. I am interested in benchmarking various carbon capture, conversion, utilization, and storage technologies, at the intersection of the MCSC and industries. During my Ph.D. study in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, my major was Micro & Nanoscale Engineering, with minors in Energy & Sustainability, Materials Engineering, and Infection & Immunity. My Ph.D. research focused on optofluidics and its global sustainability and health applications: 1) scalable artificial photosynthesis (Ref: CTF Grand Prize Winning Entry 2017, CEJ Advances article 2021, iScience article 2020, Int. J. Hydrog. Energy article 2018, TTI/Vanguard Talk 2019, WLF Talk 2020, Cornell 3MT 2021). 2) smartphone-based diagnostics (Ref: Anal. Chem. article 2021, Malar. J. article 2019, TCAM Talk 2018, Cornell 3MT 2017).

Below are some snapshots of my background.

Top 10 List & Three 30 Under 30 Lists: I received the 13th “Top Ten Outstanding Chinese American Youth Award” (2020), and landed on three 30 Under 30 lists: the “30 Under 30” list in Energy by Forbes Magazine (2019), the “EarthX 30 Under 30: The Green Generation” list by the American Conservation Coalition (2019), and the “AACYF Top 30 Under 30 Elites” list in “Art, Culture, Science” by All America Chinese Youth Federation (2019).

Recognitions by International Organizations: I am the Youth Innovation Challenge Winner (1 in the US) by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) (2021), was a member of the Technical Working Group on Energy Transition for the High-Level Dialogue on Energy by the United Nations (UN) (2021) and co-authored a roadmap on global energy transition, was a Young Changemaker on Sustainable WASH Solutions (1 of 8 globally) by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) (2020), was twice named as a Young Champions of the Earth Competition finalist (5 in North America) by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2020, 2019), was appointed as a Local Pathways Fellow (LPF) (2018-2019), and was an LPF mentor (2021) by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth (SDSN Youth).

Academic Activities: I currently serve on the Early Career Researcher Editorial Board (1 of 40 globally) for Materials Today Energy. I have recently published my first-authored work in Matter (Cell Press), Analytical Chemistry, iScience (Cell Press), Chemical Engineering Journal Advances, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, and Malaria Journal. I am also the reviewer for the $175K J.M.K. Innovation Prize, and have served as a referee over 100 times for 10 journals, including Biosens. Bioelectron., Energy Convers. Manag, Renew. Energy, J. Mol. Liq., J. Clean. Prod., Int. J. Hydrog. Energy, J. Colloid Interface Sci., IJEE, Metall Mater Trans B, Eng. Rep., etc. I was selected into the NextGen Professors Program (2019-2020), mentored an undergrad team that won the Bill Nye '77 Award in Undergrad Research (2019), and was co-PI of the $20K Scale Up and Prototyping Awards (2017) at Cornell.

My Ph.D. research at Cornell on solar fuels was featured in the World Economic Forum's white paper as an energy innovation breakthrough of the past decade (2020). I was named an MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium (MCSC) Impact Fellow (2021), a German Chancellor Fellow by the Humboldt Foundation (2021), a Young Scientist to present at the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany (2021), and a Young Investigator to attend the World Laureates Forum in Shanghai, China (2020). I received the MKS Instruments Research Excellence Award at Photonics West in San Francisco, CA (2020), among others.

I was named a Future Energy Leader (FEL-100) by the World Energy Council (2021), a twice Honorable Mention winner for the Link Foundation Energy Fellowship by the Link Foundation (2020, 2019), and a finalist in the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize by the Lemelson Foundation (2019). I received the National Third Place Prize (2018) in Presentation by the AAAS, the National Graduate Division Winner Award (2017) by Sigma Xi, and won two Best Poster Awards both in the US (2017) and abroad (2017).

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: Since 2016, I have been volunteering my time to manage my alma mater’s website for overseas education, and managing their WeChat platform. In 2020, I was featured in an interview piece by the host of the China Current, the UN goodwill ambassador, James Chau, in the story of "My Journey from Poverty to College." In 2021, I published an article "Navigating my way as a first-generation student" on Matter (Cell Press), a blog on Lindau Nobel Meetings, and a coverart and editorial on Analytical Chemistry in its Diversity and Inclusion Cover Art Series. I served as a Mentor for the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Mentorship program by Forbes and Close the Gap Foundation. For my scholarly work and commitment to promoting the success of first-gen students, I was selected as one of the five Cornellians into the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Scholars.

Social Impact: I was featured as a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Commitment-Maker by the Clinton Foundation (2020), and was featured as a Future Energy Leader (11 in the world) tackling the need for cleaner energy by BP plc (2019). I was named a Leader of Tomorrow to attend the 50th St. Gallen Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland (2021), a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum in the Ithaca Hub (2019), and a BP Advancing Energy Scholar to attend the OYW Summit in London, UK (2019).

Public Speaking: I was invited as a speaker and moderator by the late former President of France, Mr. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, to speak about the innovation potential of the energy sector in the post-pandemic world at the Post-COVID summit (2022). I was a panelist at a Table Talk on Climate Crisis with BP's CEO, Bernard Looney (2021), a panelist at the Global Policy Dialogue for Climate Action by UN DESA (2021), and a featured speaker at the "Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good Summit," a pre-event in support of the UN Food Systems Summit (2020). I was invited to speak at IoT, Data, and the New Last Mile by TTI/Vanguard, an advanced technology research membership for senior-level executives, in Berkeley, CA (2019), was selected to present at Global Grad Show, an exhibition of creativity and social innovation of the Dubai Design Week in Dubai (2019), and was selected as an INK Fellow to speak about solar fuels at the INK Conference in Jaisalmer, India (2019), along with George A. Papandreou, a former Prime Minister of Greece. I received the First Place Award by the Atkinson Center (2018), the "Drafting the Future" Award by Cornell MAE (2018), the People’s Choice Award by Cornell Grad School (2017), and was invited to speak at Ithaca’s March for Science Event (2017).

Entrepreneurship: I was a Marla and Barry ILR ’90 Beck Entrepreneurship Fellow, served as the vice president of the Chinese Entrepreneur Association at Cornell, and received a $5,000 Blackstone Launchpad & Techstars Fellowship. For my Ph.D. project, I led a team that won the $20K Grand Prize (1/1,150+ globally) in the “Create the Future” Design Contest (2017). The industrial partner in this effort, Dimensional Energy, was a finalist for the Best CO2 Utilisation Award (2021), and a finalist (1 of 10 teams globally) for the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE (2016-2021), a global competition to develop breakthrough technologies for CO2 conversion.

Prior Degrees: Ph.D. (2021) and M.S. (2019) from Cornell (both in Mechanical Engineering ), M.Eng. (thesis) in Materials Engineering (2016) from McGill with joint training by the Department of Nuclear Engineering (2015-2016) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a dual bachelor’s degree (B.Eng. in Energy & Power Engineering; B.A. in English Language & Literature) (2013) from the ‘Tsien Hsue-Shen’ Elite Class of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

For more information about me and my research, click on “Publications” and “A summary of media and awards”.