Max Mankin ’07 is the co-founder and CTO of Modern Electron, a sustainable energy technology company with the mission of affordably and practically decarbonizing heat and power. Through Modern Electron, Max and his team have a goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions from heat and power to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
“Natural gas use for building heating and industrial heating contributes about 20% of the world’s carbon emissions, and 30% of the carbon emissions in the US. Even in an optimistic scenario, natural gas use is not going away for decades,” Max said. “Modern Electron’s technology makes our existing natural gas use more efficient – so we can use less of it – and eliminates the carbon emissions from burning that natural gas by converting it to hydrogen. Most importantly, to achieve wide adoption, Modern Electron’s solutions are affordable and practical: they work with today’s infrastructure and they save end users money on their utility bills.”
Max has a decade of experience building and leading teams, as well as designing, fabricating, and characterizing energy systems and functional materials. Prior to Modern Electron, Max was an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Invention Science Fund, a technology incubator in Seattle. Max earned a BS with honors in chemistry from Brown University and a PhD in physical chemistry from Harvard University, where he held fellowships from the Hertz and National Science Foundations. Max is an inventor on a few dozen patents pending and granted. His accolades include one of Inc. Magazine’s most brilliant entrepreneurs under 30 and Forbes 30 Under 30.
At Nobles, Max was on the Nobleman staff, co-led the investment club, participated avidly in Outdoor Adventure kayaking, hiking, and climbing, and played trombone in the Blues Band. Max took every science class available at Nobles, but credits the broad curriculum spanning humanities, arts, and languages with encouraging interdisciplinary and independent thought even in the more rigorous science classes. “Nobles gave me opportunities for the first time to guide my own scientific discovery and to bridge fields. I took Jen Craft’s biochemistry research class, where I was able to formulate my own scientific questions and blend the two fields of biology and chemistry.”
This interdisciplinary wall breaking didn’t end with science. “I also had the opportunity to design my own senior project. I loved both chemistry and ceramics with John Dorsey, so I did a research project on inorganic chemistry of ceramic glazes.” It was half an art project and half a science research project. Max’s project has had a lasting legacy at Nobles. Dorsey shared, “We still use Max as the standard for student curiosity and cross-disciplinary study. Because of him, we make chemistry and physics as important a discussion in the ceramics studio as beauty and design.”
Max explains: “These interdisciplinary opportunities gave me comfort blending fields. My graduate research spanned chemistry, physics, materials science, optics, and energy, and my work now spans energy, engineering, chemistry, physics, business, entrepreneurship, economics, and operations. I learned how to learn new fields – then combine them in unusual ways – early on at Nobles. Most importantly, I learned the importance of doing work that creates public good. That’s why I work on addressing climate change.”