Student Spotlight: Henry Williams

Henry Williams

April 5, 2024

Henry Williams is a doctoral student in mechanical engineering from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He attended the University of Tulsa as an undergraduate and now studies agrivoltaic systems under the guidance of K. Max Zhang at Cornell.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

Solar energy is a key player in the transition to renewables, but land requirements present challenges for large sites in rural areas dominated by agricultural production. I am developing tools to evaluate and optimize the design of “agrivoltaic” systems, which combine agricultural production and electricity generation.

What are the larger implications of this research?

With the acceleration of large-scale solar, there is a great opportunity to optimize land utilization in and around solar farms. We see a future where solar is considered a community asset, providing key services to local areas while delivering clean energy to the grid.

You qualified for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials. What does this mean to you?

I think about my friends, family, and colleagues who supported me throughout this journey, and I’m motivated to train and race for everyone who helped make this a reality.

How have you found a balance between your graduate studies and marathon training?

Research and running are very similar. You achieve a goal through countless days of consistent progress – nothing happens overnight. This mentality helps me stay focused every day in running, research, and life.

President Pollack has designated this academic year’s theme as freedom of expression. What does freedom of expression mean to you?

The culture of Cornell is rooted in so many different identity groups. The freedom to express ideas and emotions is key to challenging our own perceptions and understanding diverse perspectives. 

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I serve as a graduate resident fellow in Flora Rose House on West Campus, and I’m also a Green Technology Innovation Fellow in the SC Johnson School of Business. In my free time you can find me playing guitar or working on my old car.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

Cornell’s commitment to sustainability is unmatched – I wanted to be in a place where renewable energy research leads to substantial change.