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Energy IGERTs at Rutgers Create a New Multi-University, Interdisciplinary Course


The Nanotechnology for Clean Energy IGERT (PI – Manish Chhowalla) and the Renewable and Sustainable Fuels Solutions IGERT (PI – Eric Lam), both based at Rutgers University, have jointly created a new multi-university and interdisciplinary pilot graduate course: Integrated Energy Challenges and Opportunities. This seminar course is designed to afford a research-level view of the “energy” landscape to graduate students pursuing energy-related research in diverse disciplines and graduate programs.

The course was collaboratively taught by faculty from both Rutgers and Princeton Universities. Graduate Trainees from both IGERTs participated in the class as well as non-IGERT students. Faculty and students were affiliated with the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton, and the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. The course was fully enrolled by graduate students from nine participating programs including chemistry, mechanical engineering, plant biology and economics among others.

Class topics included systems thinking in energy policy; energy economics and policy; power plants, power devices and grid;algal/microbial systems for biofuels generation; carbon capture and sequestration; synfuel engineering; genetic engineering for cellulosic ethanol; ecological impacts and land use; biomimetics and solar energy; solar energy and photovoltaics; fuel cells; energy storage and batteries; new energy materials and nanotechnology.

Two of the classes were delivered remotely by videoconference adding an international component to the seminar course. Professor Manish Chhowalla, PI of the Nanotechnology for Clean Energy IGERT, lectured on nanomaterials for energy from Imperial College, London. Professor Diane Hildebrandt and colleagues from the University of Witwatersrand/COMPS Centre, South Africa, partners of the Sustainable Fuels IGERT, discussed Fischer-Tropsh and Synfuels processes using biomass feedstocks.

This pilot course will become one of the required integrative courses for all incoming IGERT Trainees in both IGERT programs and will continue to be open as well to non-IGERT graduate students and selected upper level undergraduates. Pre-and post-class assessments and longitudinal tracking are being implemented to track student perceptions and outcomes and to help shape the evolution of the course.

Address Goals

This new course directly addresses the need for graduate students in science and engineering disciplines to broaden their knowledge base, particularly in the area of energy research. By including lectures from a wide variety of points of view and from different disciplines, we are directly affecting the students ability converse with other researchers and policy makers outside their dissertation fields. This will provide a broader background for leading world-class collaborative energy research.