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Energy Education Showcase: How MIT is Preparing Students for New Challenges

03/09/2011 2:30 PM 32"155
Vladimir Bulovic, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science ; Robert Jaffe, Morningstar Professor of Physics; Donald Lessard, Epoch Foundation Professor of International Management; Leon R. Glicksman, '59, PhD '64, Professor of Building Technology & Mechanical Engineering, Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Architecture

Description: In 2009, MIT launched an unusual academic venture, an interdisciplinary minor devoted to energy studies. A panel of MIT professors discuss their aspirations and work to date shepherding this new program into existence.

Vladimir Bulovic gives full credit to students for jumpstarting the energy minor. They wanted school"based opportunities to tackle urgent, real"world problems involving energy and the environment, says Bulovic, and pressed for "a coherent blueprint for education in energy." A faculty taskforce helped develop the ambitious brief of the program, an integrated set of courses within and connecting science, technology, and the social sciences, all fortified with a steady dose of hands"on research and field experience. The classroom is but one way to propagate knowledge of energy, says Bulovic. "What we tell them is just part of a bigger picture and it's up to them to discover the next steps."

Other faculty describe both accomplishments and challenges in shaping new courses with an energy focus. Robert Jaffe, who teaches a class in the physics of energy, believes MIT is not merely training scientists and engineers but "policymakers and industry leaders who will make important decisions about our energy future, and a basic understanding of physics principles, what's possible and what's not, can make a world of difference." He and colleague Washington Taylor learn as they teach, becoming "newly formed experts" in such areas as air conditioning and car engines. He's had "some wonderful 'aha' moments," such as learning that wind turbines work "like sailboats sailing into the wind," not because wind pushes their blades.

Donald Lessard team teaches a course in energy decisions, markets and policies, an enormously complex stew combining energy issues and politics, economics and social organization. "Our energy system is a series of beliefs, political structures, markets, regulatory contexts, set of prices, set of views, activities by firms and households, a physical management of energy and working off of the underlying stock," says Lessard. The team is still working out the framework for the course, and Lessard says, "None of us have ever taught anything like this before." By semester's end, students will be able to play the "climate game," attempting to manipulate the variables they have been exploring to "solve the world's energy problem."

Students of Leon Glicksman investigate how to use engineering to reduce energy loss in buildings. The course touches areas of economics, behavior and the environment, but culminates in "creatively applying principles to a particular problem area." Glicksman reports on recent student projects, which focused on taking the measure of MIT's own buildings, and finding ways to improve energy efficiency. One team figured out a way of diffusing the glare from skylights, and utilizing them as a cost effective alternative to expensive indoor lighting. Another group wrapped plastic over older windows in the 30"year"old student center, reducing heat loss. Students like "the idea of having real problems that are small but exciting. They came up with innovative solutions, which made more obvious the difficulty of doing these things. It's easy to draw boxes on the blackboard. The real world is more challenging."

About the Speaker(s): Vladimir Bulovic is a principal investigator in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics. Bulovic joined the faculty of MIT in 2000 as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Prior to joining MIT, Bulovic was a Senior Scientist and Project Head of Strategic Technology Development at Universal Display Corporation (UDC). At UDC he worked on the application of organic materials to LEDs for full color flat panel displays and thin film photovoltaics for solar cell and detector applications. Prior to joining UDC he worked in Princeton's POEM Center as a graduate researcher (1993"1998) and research associate (1998"1999).

Bulovic's current research interests include studies of physical properties of organic and organic/inorganic nanodot composite thin films and structures, and development of novel optoelectronic organic and hybrid nano"scale devices.

In 2004, Bulovic was named as one of the TR100, the list of top young innovators in technology named annually by Technology Review magazine. In the same year, he also was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE), the nation's highest honor for scientists and engineers at the beginning of their research careers.

He graduated from Princeton University with a B.S.E. (1991), M.A. (1995), and Ph.D. (1998) in Electrical Engineering.

Host(s): Office of the Provost, Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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