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Industry Playing a Role In MIT Energy Initiative

By Angeline Wang
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

As the Energy Research Council works to finish its energy report for President Susan Hockfield, industry leaders are becoming more involved with MIT and the research side of the Energy Initiative. On the educational end of the push for more work in energy research, a Web site listing classes which have significant focus on energy was recently launched.

To create recommendations for the Energy Initiative, the Council is evaluating feedback from students, faculty, and industry.

“We have not reached our final conclusions,” said Council co-chair Ernest J. Moniz, physics professor and co-director of the Laboratory for Energy and Environment. “We’re preparing to have our discussion with the president in about two weeks. Then it will be up to President Hockfield [and others] what specific directives” to pursue.

Most industry input was gathered at an MIT-sponsored energy workshop in December. More than 160 industry professionals and members of academia attended the two-day energy workshop, said Cynthia C. Bloomquist, an associate director in MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program, which sponsored the workshop.

The industry professionals, from automotive, fuel, and other energy-related industries, gave input during breakout sessions on what issues they wanted to see the Energy Initiative target.

“There was considerable interest from industry and a desire to collaborate” with MIT, said Moniz, who added that industry professionals seemed to feel MIT would have a particularly strong influence as a broker between groups.

Summaries of feedback heard at the breakout sessions and slides and audio of presentations given throughout the workshop are available on the ILP Web site (http://ilp-www.mit.edu/display_event_agenda.a4d?eventId=1797&key=P4f1), Bloomquist said.

Since the workshop, many industry leaders have continued to meet with MIT faculty members, expressing interest in working with the Institute.

“We viewed [the workshop] as an opportunity to get insight and connect to the MIT community and bring [into MIT] a company perspective, a practical business view,” said Richard Sears, a representative of Shell who attended the workshop and is now a visiting scientist in the LFEE.

Sears was also one of the instructors of 12.093 (Energy: Science, Technology, and Sustainable Development), a one-week energy class held over MIT’s Independent Activities Period this year.

In the fall of 2005, the Council also solicited input from faculty and students, asking for white papers detailing research directions that the Energy Initiative should take. Approximately 100 faculty members took part in writing the white papers, which are available on the ERC Web site (http://web.mit.edu/erc/), and the MIT Energy Club conducted a campus-wide survey whose results were presented to the Council.

Energy class database launched

The EnergyClasses site (http://energyclasses.mit.edu/), launched on Jan. 25 and sponsored by LFEE, highlights graduate and undergraduate classes with a significant focus on energy.

“What we’re hoping is that the site can meet the needs of those students with a specialized interest and those with a casual interest in energy,” said Amanda Graham, LFEE Education Program manager. The site has not received any student feedback yet, Graham said, but faculty members have submitted suggestions for possible courses to highlight.

To be included, energy must constitute at least half of the course’s contents, as stated on the site. This and other criteria used to decide course eligibility were developed by the eight-faculty-member Education Subcommittee of the Council, along with input from LFEE education staff.

Two students in the MIT Energy Club also provided input during the development of the site. Ariel M. Esposito ’09 and Michael Berlinksi G met with the faculty of the subcommittee to narrow down criteria for energy classes and to discuss the format of the Web site.

“I feel strongly that there needs to be a higher level of understanding of the current energy situation on the MIT campus, and I hope this Web site will facilitate such an understanding,” Esposito said.

As reported by Tech Talk in January, EnergyClasses will be part of a larger Council Web site that will include a comprehensive database of energy initiatives on campus. The larger site will also highlight individuals and laboratories involved in energy research.