UNLV’s most distinguished research award — the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award — was created in 2001 with two goals in mind: honoring the U.S. senator who has been an outstanding supporter of UNLV, and recognizing faculty who have performed research that is both highly regarded and responsive to the needs of the community and state. The 2002 recipient of this honor, Robert Boehm, represents the exceptional research and scholarship being performed at UNLV.
Robert F. Boehm—Distinguished Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering Director, UNLV Center for Energy Research
Many believe that by tapping into Nevada’s plentiful solar, wind, and geothermal resources, the state could become a major supplier of the nation’s energy.
UNLV Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert Boehm not only believes this is possible, but is working to make it happen.
Boehm, the university’s first recipient of the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award, maintains that in the not-too-distant future, he and his UNLV colleagues could help provide ecologically sound power sources that will also help stimulate new jobs and tax revenue for this region.
“The use of nontraditional power sources could become big business for the state and could further help diversify its economy,” Boehm says. “We have the ability to solve the country’s energy problems within Nevada’s borders.”
Since joining the UNLV faculty in 1990, Boehm continues to both teach and explore the potential of solar energy utilization, radiation heat transfer, and the design of thermal systems. In 1995, he established the Center for Energy Research, an interdisciplinary entity that focuses on the application of solar and renewable energy and the development of energy-efficient technologies. Currently, 10 graduate students, five faculty members, and numerous research partners are actively involved in a number of major projects, including:
•Developing energy conservation design criteria for buildings constructed in the desert Southwest.
•Constructing a zero-energy home with numerous energy conserving features.
•Developing a remote monitoring system for the new 50 megawatt solar-power system being constructed near Boulder City.
•Analyzing the effects of adding thermal storage to trough-type solar thermal power plants.
•Monitoring environmental conditions in remote locations at the Nevada Test Site using a photovoltaic power generation system.
•Evaluating the economic viability of solar-powered water heaters.
•Building a renewable hydrogen refueling station to install and analyze the performance of a hydrogen fueling system powered by the sun’s energy.
•Working with developers of concentrating photovoltaic solar power systems.
Boehm has authored several books on the design of thermal systems and heat transfer, has written more than 400 articles in a variety of publications, and has been a featured presenter at conferences and workshops around the nation and the world. He currently serves as associate editor for several international journals and is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Energy Committee, which is charged with making recommendations on energy issues to Congress. Boehm received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Washington State University and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 40 research projects during his 14 years at UNLV. Over the past five years, his grants and contracts have totaled nearly $4.5 million.
About Senator Harry Reid
The highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate and Nevada’s senior senator, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has worked actively through the years to support many of UNLV’s major research projects. He has been instrumental in identifying significant resources to allow faculty to engage in a variety of investigative studies, particularly those related to the efficient use of alternative energy and the management of spent nuclear fuel. His support of the scholarly pursuits of UNLV faculty, especially as they relate to environmental studies, has been substantive. The Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies and the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award have been named to honor his long-standing commitment to the university. Plans are also under way to develop the Harry Reid UNLV Research and Technology Park, expected to begin construction soon.