Suzanne Higgins Published

With a Presidential Award, This 30-Something WVU Scientist is a Global Energy Expert


He’s got a beautiful voice. 

In fact, he was once a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus – the house chorus for the Boston Symphony Orchestra – and he currently sings with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. 

Music remains one of Brian Anderson’s passions. And that shouldn’t surprise us now that science has established the correlation between music talent and math and science aptitude.

But this scientist is truly inspiring.

Anderson, at age 37, is a global expert on geothermal energy deep beneath the earth’s surface – as he calls it, “the heat under our feet.”

The Roane County native is one of four leaders profiled in West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s 2015 Inspiring West Virginians radio documentary, airing Dec. 28 at 8pm.

As Director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, Professor Anderson, a chemical engineer, has for the past 4 years been leading a team at WVU as they work on the geothermal resources under our feet.

Anderson points out that West Virginia is a regional hotspot when it comes to geothermal resources.

“It’s not the most economical here, but that’s where we come in,” said the 2013 recipient of the President’s Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers – the highest honor young science and engineering researchers can receive from the US Government. 

“That’s where advanced research comes in. That’s what we’re trying to do, is find ways that it can be simultaneously environmentally friendly and economical and can help us provide a new and additional energy source from the state of West Virginia.”

But Brian Anderson is not just interested in geothermal energy, for which he received his PhD from MIT.  He’s also a leading authority on gas hydrates, an untapped resource under the oceans and in Arctic Regions. 

And, as head of WVU Energy Institute, Anderson oversees research into wind power, solar power, biomass, oil, shale gas, and other sources.   In fact, he has a passion for making ALL of West Virginia’s rich energy resources both productive and environmentally sustainable.

But when it comes to coal and it’s future production and environmental sustainability, well, then it gets personal.  Anderson’s grandfather was a coalminer and passed away at age 87 earlier this year, after suffering with Black Lung for decades.

“So my dad grew up in a coal camp just outside of Montgomery, and you know, I’m a West Virginian.  I have coal running in my blood,” said Anderson.  “ I am very mindful of what the resources we have have provided to us and what they’ve taken away.”

“So for me, working in West Virginia is really a mandate.”

WVU President E. Gordon Gee named Anderson to lead the Energy Institute shortly after taking office.

“We’re dealing with West Virginia’s future, and the belief and passion he has for the state comes through very clearly,” said Gee.

“I think he’s a prime example of the fact that you can go away and come home,“ he said.  “Someone who has gone away, has performed brilliantly academically, and has a great professional life in front of him, but yet who made a decision that West Virginia was his home and he’s going to come home and do well here and do right here.”

Editor’s note:  Enjoy the stories of more than 2 dozen Inspiring West Virginians during an encore presentation of all 6 programs, Dec. 29 – Dec. 31, beginning at 8pm on West Virginia Public Radio.