New Faculty Spotlight: Robert Warburton

Robert Warburton

Assistant Professor
Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

When he started college, Robert Warburton didn't know much about engineering. Knowing he liked math, he took a chemistry course during his first quarter and fell in love with it. This brought him to a decision—to study chemistry or chemical engineering. The now assistant professor, chose the engineering route because of its combination of both chemistry and math. He was particularly interested in how the combination of these two topics could impact energy, the environment and human health. 

A combination of a love for research and teaching drew him to becoming a professor. "I'm excited to play a role in helping students develop the skills and tools needed to becoming practicing engineers that can address societal challenges," he said.

His research focuses on using computational methods based on quantum mechanics to understand the atomic-level structure and properties of molecules and materials. He has a particular interested in applying these computational techniques to understand and control chemical processes at electrochemical interfaces that are important components of different renewable energy technologies. By working with students and colleagues he hopes to understand chemical reaction mechanisms on the surface of materials used for energy conversion (catalysts) and storage (batteries) using these computational methods. The knowledge gained from such computational experiments can be used to devise strategies to improve existing materials used for energy conversion and storage applications.

He will take this knowledge and expertise to the classroom, teaching the undergraduate chemical engineering thermodynamics class. For the 2023-2024 academic year, Warburton is already developing a graduate elective course that will be research-focused and hone in on computational materials modeling.

What is your favorite thing about engineering?

My favorite thing about engineering is that it provides a framework rooted in science to design solutions to technical problems. I find it fascinating that going through an engineering program equips you with problem solving strategies that can be adapted toward many different careers. Especially within chemical engineering, I have enjoyed seeing classmates and colleagues to go on to engineering careers in a variety of industries ranging from chemicals to pharmaceuticals, as well as postgraduate training in a research-focused PhD program or medical/law school.

What are you most looking forward to at Case Western Reserve University?

I am looking forward to teaching classes and doing research with CWRU students. I’m also excited to work with some excellent colleagues in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, as well as in other departments on campus.

If you’re a Cleveland local, what is your favorite thing to do in Cleveland? If you’re new to Cleveland, what’re you most looking forward to exploring?

I love to spend time outdoors, so I am looking forward to exploring the Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I’m also a Northeast Ohio native and am excited to get back downtown to see the Guardians, Cavs, and Browns play.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Some good advice I’ve gotten from a few sources is that there are many paths toward feeling fulfilled in both your professional and personal life, and that none of these possibilities are universally “correct”. I try to keep this in mind to remind myself what it is that brings me joy and fulfillment.