As a meteorology student at a Pennsylvania college, Matthew Stepp didn't aspire to be a TV weatherman but he loved the research on the forces of nature. "I was always a science nerd," he said.
He went on to earn a master's degree in science, technology, and public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and just five years after graduation, Stepp, 29, has become the leader of Washington's newest think tank, the Center for Clean Energy Innovation.
Housed at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the center is unique among research organizations in the capital. "We're the only one directly focused on energy-innovation policy," Stepp said.
The goal is to address climate change by advocating for government policies that encourage development of low-carbon technologies. In doing so, the center will be "technology-neutral," Stepp said, meaning it will look for ways to generally promote innovation in the energy world.
"We want to see the same kind of technology development for clean energy as we saw with fracking," he said, referring to the advancements in drilling techniques that led to the current U.S. oil and gas boom.
Among the subjects the center will address are American research and development programs, tax policy, trade issues, science and math education, and advanced manufacturing. It plans to put out its first report in late March or early April offering policymakers an agenda for action on clean-energy development, Stepp said.
Stepp, a Philadelphia native, finished his master's in 2009 and landed a fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences assisting the Transportation Research Board. He later moved to the Breakthrough Institute, where he worked on green-energy issues, before moving to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in 2010 as an energy policy analyst.