LED light bulbs

The efficiency of LED technology is doubling every two years, similar to Moore's Law. Manufacturers are continually introducing new lamps or light sources to take advantage of these efficiencies. In this environment, manufacturers have limited windows of opportunity to sell their products before being bypassed by the next generation.

The quality of the light sources has improved dramatically. The effect of this improvement on visual acuity and performance is just beginning to be understood. To that end, the Illuminating Engineering Society recently approved TM-24 which officially recognizes the effect of high kelvin light and visual efficiency. This document has the potential to reduce lighting energy consumption by 25% just be changing the color of light!

The effect of light on human health is also emerging. Numerous studies strongly indicate the significance of these impacts on our physical and mental health. While some of the basic mechanisms of how light is detected has been elucidated, more research needs to be completed to understand how to more effectively apply these findings in the real world. We will help to bridge this gap in current knowledge.

The incandescent light bulb was patented in 1880 and has not changed since. The traditional sources of lighting available to the general public, and the ways in which light is used, have not moved far beyond the incandescent lamp. New advances in lighting knowledge are evolving rapidly and traditional lighting providers (retailers, distributors and electricians) simply cannot keep up with the technology to advise customers of the most recent advances.

History of Midwest Lighting Institute (MLI)

Rod Heller, founding partner of Energy Performance Lighting, saw a need in the lighting industry. He saw many different reports and research papers that indicated a relationship between human behavior, the operation of the human eye, and man-made lighting in the built space. The reports seemed to indicate opportunities to improve people’s lives, but details were sorely missing.

The other thing that Rod thought was missing in the industry was a robust training institution that was not product dependent. Rod saw many lighting vendors, electricians, and lighting designers that simply were not considering energy efficiency and the human effects of lighting in their designs.

Rod teamed up with Dr. Steven Lockley from Harvard Medical School. Together they started to dream of establishing a non-profit company that would take some of the preliminary studies and further the investigation to prove real improvements to people’s lives using simply light. Dr. Richard Moss and  Kurt Zimmerman, and Brian Liebel soon joined the effort to formulate the business plan for this non-profit. WECC, a Wisconsin based energy conservation company, also joined the effort to expedite the training and education program.

MLI was created as a 501(c)3 in 2014. After months of work, the first research studies and trainings will begin in the Fall of 2016.


MLI will foster innovative applications of new energy-saving lighting technologies through MLI-funded research that speeds adoption and understanding of those technologies for the improvement of human health, safety, and productivity.

Keys to Success

General Principles:

  • Our research, technologies, and services will include products vetted by scientists, practitioners, and industry experts at the highest standard of care.
  • Our research, technologies, and services will maintain objectivity through manufacturer-neutral assessments.
  • Our research, technologies, and services will embrace collaboration with individuals and institutions that are specialized and recognized in their fields.
  • Our research, technologies, and services will focus on collaborations within a 12-state underserved region that will both support and receive benefit from the MLI.

Our Board of Directors

Rodney Heller

Rodney Heller


Senior Lighting Designer at Energy Performance Lighting

Rodney co-founded EPL in 2003 and has built the company into a leading design-build energy efficient lighting company in the upper Midwest. The company has numerous unique designs that minimize energy consumption while providing the IES Recommended Practice for light levels. He is the leader in the country on installing high color temperature lighting for improving visual acuity and human performance. He is a consummate entrepreneur with a knack for seeing opportunity with new technologies. Heller is the founding member of the board of directors and the institute. He is developing the strategic direction of the institute to meet needs of the greatest number of people.

Tamara Sondgeroth

Tamara Sondgeroth

President and Executive Director

Principal at Emphasis on Energy

Tamara received her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the Missouri S & T, followed by Masters degree in Business Administration at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She served as Director of Energy Portfolios and Director of Operations for the Focus on Energy program from 2012 through 2015. Ms. Sondgeroth also worked for several municipal utilities as their Energy Efficiency leader. She has managed projects with annual budgets of $100,000,000 and more than 200 employees.

Richard Moss

Rick Moss


Professor & Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, Biotechnology & Graduate Studies, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Richard received his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Vermont, followed by postdoctoral studies at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute. He served as Chair of the Physiology Department at the UW from 1988 to 2009, and grew it to become one of the leading research departments in the nation. He founded the UW Cardiovascular Research Center and the M.S. in Biotechnology degree program. Moss’s research focuses on heart failure, its causes, and therapeutic approaches to the disease. He has authored more than 150 papers and supervised more than 20 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

Brian Liebel

Brian Liebel

Scientific Advisory Board

CEO Lighting Partnership

Brian has a BS in Architectural Engineering and a BS in Environmental Design and is a 30 year veteran of the lighting industry. He is a registered Professional Engineer and has won numerous awards for his lighting designs. He has worked in all aspects of the lighting industry, including lighting design, electrical engineering, lighting controls specialist, educator, researcher, and product developer. He has designed a number of lighting labs and demonstration areas for companies such as Sylvania, Philips, Cooper Lighting, and Daybrite and Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and was the Lighting Program Director for PG&E’s Energy Center for five years. His work also encompasses research for Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy in the area of Spectrally Enhanced Lighting. Brian is an incoming member of the Board of Directors of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), is the chairman of the IES Visual Effects of Lamp Spectral Distribution Committee, and participates in the IES Research Committee.

Steven Lockley

Dr. Steven Lockley

Scientific Advisory Board

Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Neuroscientist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Steven is an Associate Professor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a Neuroscientist, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital. He has 20 years of experience in circadian rhythm and sleep research, including the effects of light on human physiology. He has published more than 100 original reports, reviews, chapters and editorials on circadian biology and sleep, with the majority examining the role of light, or lack of light, on sleep, alertness and circadian rhythms. He has won several awards including the Taylor Technical Talent Award from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America for a paper on the application of 'circadian' lighting to architectural design.

Kurt Zimmerman

Kurt J. Zimmerman

Scientific Advisory Board

Director of the Master of Science in Biotechnology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kurt teams with faculty on course development and delivery, collaborates actively with the
biotechnology industry on related projects, and works with M.S. in Biotechnology students on career and academic issues. Prior to joining the M.S. in Biotechnology, Zimmerman worked in the nationally ranked manufacturing and online programs in the College of Engineering (http://www.engr.wisc.edu/) at UW- Madison, and spent 5 years in a variety of roles within the UW System, including: fundraising, corporate relations, government lobbying and human resources. Zimmerman began his career in Stamford, Connecticut in nonprofit management and government lobbying.