It looks like Tesla is going to have a new head of its Advanced Battery Research program in Canada, as Jeff Dahn appears to be planning a succession for his extremely successful battery lab currently sponsored by the electric automaker.

Dahn is considered a pioneer in Li-ion battery cells. He has been working on the Li-ion batteries pretty much since they were invented. He is credited for helping to increase the life cycle of the cells, which helped their commercialization.

His work now focuses mainly on a potential increase in energy density and durability, while also decreasing the cost.

In 2016, Dahn transitioned his research group, which operates as part of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from their 20-year research agreement with 3M to a new association with Tesla under the newly formed “NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research.”

The partnership has already been very beneficial for Tesla.

Over the last year, the group has been filing patents on battery technology for Tesla that could lead to a new battery cell enabling a million miles in a battery pack.

The contract between Dahn’s research group and Tesla is set to conclude in 2021, but they have an option to renew it.

However, Dahn is approaching 65 years old, and while we are told that he doesn’t have any plan to retire anytime soon, he is still looking for a succession for his battery research group.

Dalhousie University is now listing two positions to head the Advanced Battery Research group at the university, including a new “Tesla Canada chair”:

  • The first position is the Tesla Canada chair. The priorities of the appointment are the excellence of the candidate and their ability to continue a world-class partnership with Tesla started by Prof. Jeff Dahn. The successful candidate will enhance, complement, and eventually lead the research partnership between Dalhousie and Tesla in longer-lived, high-energy density and lower cost Li-ion batteries. Applicants are required to have a PhD, postdoctoral or equivalent experience in physics, chemistry or engineering, and demonstrated excellence in research, with a strong potential for effective teaching of selected classes in our program. For further information about this position and to apply, please visit this link.
  • The second position is the Herzberg-Dahn chair. The priorities of the appointment are the excellence of the candidate and their ability to initiate a world-class research program in either experimental or theoretical/computational research in advanced Li-ion battery or “beyond Li-ion battery” research. A program that enhances or complements the existing and planned activities of the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair (IRC) program in longer lived, high-energy density and lower cost Li-ion batteries would be considered an asset. Applicants are required to have a PhD, postdoctoral or equivalent experience in physics or a related discipline and demonstrated excellence in research, with a strong potential for effective teaching in our undergraduate and graduate programs. For further information about this position and to apply, please visit this link.

Leah Ellis, who is an alumni from Dahn’s lab at Dalhousie and alerted Electrek of the new job listings, gave us some interesting insights into Dahn’s succession plan:

I think the idea is that he will ramp-down his involvement with Tesla and Dalhousie as these two new professors ramp-up. The more senior of these profs will ultimately take the lead with Tesla. The other prof, the Dahn-Hertzberg Chair, a physicist, hired at a junior level, is not required to collaborate with Tesla (although that is an option) and is expected to do more exploratory battery-development work.

The chemist, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, believes that Dahn has no plan on retiring anytime soon. Instead, she thinks that he will mentor the two new chairs in order for the program to live on.

She couldn’t emphasize enough how a big professorship opportunity this would be for battery experts:

Jeff is amazing, and these are huge shoes to fill. There are also insane perks to these two jobs — mentorship from Jeff, access to his students, inheritance of millions of dollars worth of battery testing equipment, funding, collaboration with Tesla, etc. There has never been such an epic job posting for a professorship.

People interested in the hobs can apply in the links above.

Electrek’s Take

The deal with Dahn’s group appears to have already been extremely beneficial to Tesla and ultimately maybe for the entire EV industry.

It would be a big loss for the automaker, but it looks like he is taking his succession plan seriously, and with fresh blood and his mentorship, it could result in an even stronger research group.

As Ellis pointed out, the competition for the positions is likely going to be hot, and it could attract some great talent.

We will try to keep updated on the situation.

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