Mihri Ozkan is leading a campus campaign to increase recycling rates to 100%. She hosts lectures across the UC system on green technology and is working with Riverside Public Utilities to increase public awareness of eco-friendly technologies.

Mihri is a professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Riverside. She holds an MS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UC San Diego. Her eco-friendly technologies have received a lot of attention being featured by magazines, TV shows, and newspapers worldwide.

Mihri has received many awards for her research. These honors include: the National Medal for Engineering Science Young Investigator, the Young Frontier in Engineering Honor, the Inventor Recognition Award, the Distinguished Engineering Educator of the Year, and the Visionary Science Award.

Also, Mihri is dedicated to improving diversity in engineering. She worked alongside an executive producer to produce a new science show called FabLab – a show focused on engaging teenage girls in science. The show was created in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association on the Fox TV network. During her interview, Mihri asked the girls for help in participating in climate action.

To learn more about Mihri and her lab visit her website.

Mihri is getting creative with eco-friendly technologies.

Broadly, Mihri uses interdisciplinary research to combine high capacity energy storage devices with eco-friendly technologies. She makes use of natural, recycled sources to make manufactured goods. For instance, she collaborated on research that created a new type of lithium-ion battery from portabella mushrooms. Not only was this an innovative design, but also improved battery degradation over time.

Mihri’s team also designed a swimsuit that can clean up an oil spill. This swimsuit is made of a reusable material, which they appropriately call Sponge. Sponge is made from heated sucrose (a type of sugar) and contains a lot of pores, repels water, and absorbs harmful chemicals. This material can absorb up to 25 times its weight and will not release the absorbed chemicals unless it is heated to extreme temperatures. Also, the absorbed chemicals are trapped within inner pores and do not touch the skin. This eco-friendly innovation won an international design competition.

Mihri is leading a campaign towards 100% recycling.

Mihri worked with partnerships on green energy, 100% recycling, sustainable manufacturing, and zero-emission vehicles. She is applying knowledge, testing theories, and addressing economic, social, environmental, and technological issues with eco-friendly technologies. Her specific goals are to:

  1. implement effective ways to increase recycling rates to 100% at UC Riverside and across the UC system,
  2. investigate the effectiveness of existing recycling infrastructure on UC campuses; and
  3. examine what influences people’s behavior and habits and how that knowledge could increase recycling rates.

To attain these goals, Mihri is working with Riverside Public Utilities to increase public awareness on recycling. Finally, she will give lectures on campuses across the UC system on eco-friendly technologies.

Mihri’s project, SpongeSuit, is a swimsuit that absorbs chemicals in the water without harming the wearer.


What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?

A significant contributor to variation in climate research consensus estimates is the composite of general scientific opinion with expert scientific opinion. A flawed methodology (for example by conflating non-expert and expert views, and/or making unsupported assumptions about sources that do not specifically state a position about the climate view) may confuse people and generate misperception about climate change observations. One of the common misperceptions is: climate change is unavoidable and no one can do anything about this which, is wrong.

What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?

-Educating public, non scientists, students and K-12 students about climate change and showing a way to help and participate as an individual opinion.

-Being a role model for others by working on climate and environmental friendly research topic 

-Making pleasant and educating noise to help develop important climate and environment related policies

-Taking this at a global level

What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?

[My] swimwear design incorporating “Sponge” material with the concept of “clean seas as you swim” won the Reshape International Wearable Technology Competition in 2015 in Rome, Italy, and now SpongeSuit became a “Global Finalist” with the “Audience Favorite Choice Award” at the Climate Launchpad 2016 Competition. Recently, we have created a global awareness for a material named “Sponge” in more than 30 countries, with over 350+ PR publications including major news outlets such as Wall Street Journal, CNN International, Fast Company, Discovery Channel, Fox News and Huffington Post. We are thrilled we can make such an impact through our smart material – “Sponge.” This recognition reflects to UCR and UC-system.

What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?

Even though many misperceptions are out there, climate change is real. We need everyone’s help to clean and heal our world. Remember we have only one world!


• Worked with Riverside Public Utilities to increase public awareness on recycling

• Investigated the effectiveness of existing recycling infrastructure across the UC system

• Produced a new science TV show to engage teen girls

Mihri Ozkan and her collaborator discuss their work in the lab.
"We all have to work together to save our world."
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Mihri Ozkan contributed to a research group at UC Riverside seeking to reuse waste glass bottles to create high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

Mihri Ozkan has helped to create a swimsuit that absorbs oil spilled in the ocean as you swim.

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