Energy Studies Minor updates: Changes offer students broader engagement with energy field

Turner Jackson MITEI

Since 2009, the Energy Studies Minor (ESM) has been a key component of energy education for undergraduate students at MIT. The minor helps students to develop the skills required of future leaders in clean energy and gain a comprehensive understanding of diverse energy topics—including renewable energy, architecture and urban planning, and energy policy. Students also benefit from hands-on learning opportunities to work with world-renowned researchers, policy analysts, and thought leaders.

For the past two years, the Energy Minor Oversight Committee has worked to update the ESM curriculum. During that time, the committee was chaired by David Hsu, an associate professor of urban and environmental planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (fall 2017–fall 2018), and Ruben Juanes, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the director of the Henry L. Pierce Laboratory for Infrastructure Science and Engineering (spring 2019–present). The committee unveiled the new curriculum in August 2019.

“We are pleased to launch the revamped curriculum this fall. This update marks the first time the curriculum has been updated in its 10-year existence,” says Juanes. “The new curriculum is the result of a multiyear effort from energy leaders across MIT. Our goal is to help students better integrate the energy studies course requirements into their overarching academic plans.”

The ESM curriculum is composed of two sections: the core curriculum and electives. The updates mainly affect the core curriculum, which previously consisted of three areas: Energy Science Foundations, Social Science Foundations of Energy, and Energy Technology/Engineering in Context. The new curriculum defines Economics as a fourth, separate core area because the subject underpins the energy landscape. The redesigned curriculum also offers a wider variety of classes that are taught every semester, resulting in a more flexible and customizable minor.

A generous grant from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation allowed for two particularly exciting developments: the redesign of 12.021 Earth Science, Energy, and the Environment, taught by Bradford Hager, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Earth Sciences in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and the creation of an entirely new class—15.2191J/17.399J Global Energy: Politics, Markets, and Policy. Taught by Valerie Karplus, an assistant professor of global economics and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the new Global Energy class prepares students to use a wide array of skills to interpret developments in energy politics, markets, and policy in a range of national and global contexts.

Designed by MITEI, the energy minor complements the deep expertise obtained in any MIT major with broad, interdisciplinary training in science, technology, and the social sciences, including policy issues related to energy and climate change. With these updates, the Energy Studies Minor will continue to facilitate students’ ground-breaking discoveries in clean energy and to prepare them for exciting careers in industry, government, and academia.

This article appears in the issue of Energy Futures.

Electric powerPolicy and economics EducationEnergy Studies Minor

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