Foreign Policy magazine has placed two Stanford faculty members on its list of "100 Global Thinkers": David Lobell (associate professor of environmental Earth system science) and  Xiaolin Zheng (assistant professor of mechanical engineering).

In the fifth annual special issue featuring global thinkers, the editors explain that they look for people who “over the past year, have made a measurable difference in politics, business, technology, the arts, the sciences and more.”

They write, “We look at the year’s biggest stories and scout the weird and arcane from obscure journals.” The resulting list, they believe, includes people who are “doing nothing less than bringing peace, protecting the planet and pushing the boundaries of the possible.”

Lobell, also a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, was cited “for helping farmers feed the world.” Lobell also won a MacArthur “genius award” in 2013.

The profile of Lobell reads:

“Against the backdrop of climate change, a question looms large: Can the world feed all its people? There are already 842 million undernourished people on the planet, and recent research suggests that food supplies are increasingly at risk as temperatures rise. If we do nothing to address agricultural practices and climate change, then the picture of human hunger looks dire as our population heads toward an estimated 9.6 billion in 2050. 

David Lobell, an agricultural ecologist at Stanford Ujavascript:void(0)niversity who works in the emerging field of crop informatics, wants to brighten this picture.”                                                                              

The magazine lauded Zheng for developing "what sounds like a toy but is really a groundbreaking engineering feat: the ‘solar sticker.' It’s a small cell that allows solar power to be generated on virtually any surface. The cell is flexible, about one square centimeter, and one tenth as thick as plastic wrap, and when attached to an adhesive it functions like a sticker. Critically, it converts the same amount of energy as its rigid, heavier counterparts, but because it bends, it can stick to anything from cell phones to helmets to skylights to clothing. And it’s cheaper to make.”

Zheng was inspired in part, by her young daughter’s love for stickers, the magazine said.

This article was adapted from the Stanford Report.

Jan. 10, 2014