Energy Studies

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The following links contain information about the curriculum, instructions for applicants, and the 2020-21 program brochure. 

ANNOUNCEMENTS 

  • A  list of courses approved for credit in Energy Studies for the 2021-22 Academic Year can be downloaded from Yale Box Drive at: COURSES.
  • Applications to Energy Studies for enrollment by rising juniors (Class of 2023) will be accepted throughout the Summer and into the Fall Term. Go to: Instructions for Applicants (above). The enrollment process for rising sophomores (Class of 2024) will take place in the Fall.
  • Two Energy Studies seminars, ENRG 300 (F21), Multidisciplinary Topics in World Energy, and ENRG 400 (S22), Senior Capstone Seminar, are offered  in the 2021-22 Academic Year. ENRG 300, nominally for juniors in Energy Studies, examines, from a multidisciplinary perspective, a series of international, regional, and local topics related to the world’s energy transition. ENRG 400 is a convenient vehicle for seniors to complete their capstone projects in a credited Yale College Course. The seminar also features guest lectures from energy and climate experts around the world.
  • Energy Studies graduated 21 students as Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2021, bringing the total number of Energy Studies Alumni since the program started in the 2013-14 Academic Year to well over 200. A list of graduates in the Class of 2021 and their capstone projects can be found below. A slideshow highlighting their accomplishments is HERE. (Another ~20 students from the original Class of 2021 are delaying graduation until the Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 terms.)
  • Energy Studies graduated 41 students as Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2020, the program’s largest cohort since its founding in the 2013-14 Academic Year. The group set high marks for the number of degrees awarded (46, counting double majors), the number of different departmental majors (19), and the number of Energy Studies courses taken (nearly 400). Energy Studies scholars in the Class of 2020 received 11 Academic Prizes at Commencement. 
  • The World Economic Forum website (weforum.org) features an updated version of the Climate Change Transformation Map, curated in partnership with Yale through Energy Studies. A team of Energy Studies scholars assembled the information and wrote the text for the map with help from Yale faculty and staff. The WEF website has more than 100 transformation maps on critical topics for the 21st century.  Climate Change was one of only 4 highlighted for the annual WEF meeting in Davos in 2019.
  • The faculty advisory committee for Energy Studies for the 2021-22 Academic Year is: Vero Bourg-Meyer (CBEY, Clean Energy Collaborative), Gary Brudvig (Chemistry; Energy Sciences Institute), Virgina Chapman (Office of Sustainbility), Michael Fotos (Political Science; DUS, Environmental Studies), Ken Gillingham (F&ES, Economics, School of Management), Cary Krosinsky (School of Management), Michael Oristaglio (EPS; director, Energy Studies), Julie Paquette (Director of Energy Management), Daniel Prober (Applied Physics; DUS), Paul Sabin (History), Mary-Louise Timmermans (EPS). All are available for consultation and advice about the program. 
  • Student representatives on the faculty advisory committee for the 2021-22 Academic Year are: Liam Muldoon ‘22 (Economics, History), Eliza Poggi ‘23 (Earth & Planetary Sciences), and Sena Sugiono ‘24.
  • Office hours for the summer are on Zoom by appointment. Email michael.oristaglio@yale.edu

ENERGY STUDIES CLASS OF 2021

Congratulations to the Energy Studies Class of 2021, and to their families, for their perserverance and tenacity during a extraordinary time!
 
Here are the Yale Energy Scholars of the Class of 2021 and their capstone projects:
 
  • Jacob Abdallah (Environmental Engineering), Evaluating Variations in Light Distribution Across Growth Chamber Shelves

  • Jonathan Altman (Global Affairs), Understanding the Residential Solar Market in COVID and Beyond

  • Stephanie Bang (Computer Science), ecoFASHION: Interactive Visualization of the Carbon Footprint of Fashion

  • Ornella Bayigamba (Environmental Engineering), Crumb Rubber and its Environmental Impacts:  A Literature Review

  • Chiara Chung-Halpern (Earth & Planetary Sciences), The Potential for Carbon Sequestration in the Columbia River Basalt Group

  • Alexia Godron (Political Science), Legal and Financial Mechanisms for the Protection of the East River Marsh in Guilford, Connecticut

  • Leila Halley-Wright (Political Science; Economics), Sustainable Consumption and the “Greening” of Social Norms: An Application of Nudge Theory to Climate Politics in the United States

  • Chloe Heller (History), Dating the Anthropocene: A Timeline and Analysis

  • Marlena Hinkle (Environmental Engineering; Italian), Modular Advanced Oxidation Process for Decentralized Water Treatment

  • Logan Howard (Environmental Studies), Heat Stress in Urban Environments: A Case Study of Heat Vulnerability in New Haven

  • Trini Kechkian (Environmental Studies; Global Affairs), An Equitable Transformation of the Energy System: The Role of State-Level Incentives for Distributed Energy Resources

  • Lauren Kim (Environmental Studies), Precarious Infrastructure: An Analysis of Equity Gaps in Perceptions of and Responses to Extreme Heat Events & Wildfires in California

  • Sophie Latham (Environmental Studies), Mitigation of Climate Change through Direct Air Capture of CO2: An Analysis of Three Plausible Scenarios in the United States

  • Yoanna Lazarova (Political Science), Clean Energy – A Route to Clean Water

  • Lucy McEwan (Physics), Examining the Trajectory of Large-Scale Nuclear Power Generation in the U.S. by Looking at the Future of Byron and Dresden Generating Stations

  • Nathan Paumier (Environmental Engineering), From Waste to Resource: Turning the Caribbean’s Sargassum Challenge into an Energy Solution

  • Kobe Rizk (History), A New Oil Weapon? Wrestling with the Meaning of China’s 2005 Bid for Unocal

  • Yash Samantaray (Chemical Engineering; Computer Science), Determining Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer Reactivity and Electron Interaction in Cerium oxide Nanomaterial Thin-film Electrodes

  • Aditi Shetty (Applied Mathematics), Carbon Capture from Power Plants and Storage in Deep Geologic Formations: Summer Internship with Yale Carbon Containment Lab

  • Christopher West (Physics; Computer Science and Mathematics), Offshore Wind energy: Patterns of Wind Speed Variability and a Spectral Approach to Comparing Electricity Supply and Demand

  • Michael Whalen (Applied Physics), Effects of Burst Height and Atmosphere on Radiation Dose Distributions from a Nuclear Event


ENERGY STUDIES

Energy Studies is a multidisciplinary academic program (MAP) in Yale College. The curriculum is designed to provide selected undergraduates with the knowledge and skills needed for advanced studies, leadership, and success in energy-related fields. Energy Studies scholars must also complete the requirements of a Yale College major, since Yale does not offer a major in Energy Studies. 

Study of the world of energy takes many forms. Think about your home. Where does the energy come from to turn on the lights and to charge your mobile phoneor to heat the space or cool it, when needed? It’s easy to say that the energy comes from a local utility company or power plant, but where does the power plant get the energy from, and how does that vary around the world?

Answers to these questions involve the science & technology of energy. Today, despite all the progress of the last twenty years in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, about 80% of the world’s primary energy still comes from fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. That number, which comes as a surprise to many, highlights the challenge of a rapid transition to renewable energy. What new technologies, new breakthroughs, can speed up the move away from fossil fuels?

Many students will be interested in the environmental impacts of modern energy use, especially air and water pollution and climate change. We now know that burning fossil fuels is the main driver of accelerated climate change and that to avoid its potentially catastrophic consequences—extreme storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires—the world needs to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, to zero within the next three decades. Are there realistic pathways to a “Net Zero” energy economy by the year 2050? What are the consequences if the Net Zero target is missed? Can carbon dioxide be removed from the atmosphere artificially? Can climate be “geoengineered” to avoid excessive warming?

Other students will be interested in energy’s social and economic impacts. Moving away from fossil fuels will be hard enough on its own, but more difficult still is making this transition while providing modern energy services to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who now lack them. This is the challenge of Energy/Environmental Justice: Nearly 500 million people today have no access to electricity; 2.5 billion have no access to modern energy for cooking or heating. What social and economic changes are needed to provide “Affordable and Clean Energy for All”—one of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals?

The three aspects of energy just described form the three multidisciplinary tracks of Energy Studies: (Track 1) Energy Science & Technology, (Track 2) Energy & Environment, (Track 3) Energy & Society. Students in the program take at least 2 courses in each of the 3 tracks and complete a capstone project in senior year.  There are also two special Energy Studies seminars: one in junior year focuses on an international, multidisciplinary look at the world’s energy transiton and one in senior year focuses on student capstone projects.

Admission to Energy Studies is by application, normally in a student’s sophomore year. The enrollment process starts in the fall term, in coordination with the other Yale MAPs. The deadlines for application are announced in an e-mail to sophomores from the Yale College Dean’s Office and by notice in the Yale Daily News. After fulfilling the program’s requirements during their junior and senior years, and completing the degree in their majors, Energy Studies scholars receive certificates at graduation which become part of their academic records in the Registrar’s Office. Graduates of the program are invited to join the Yale Alumni in Energy organization.

The requirements for Energy Studies are the completion of six courses from a list approved by the faculty advisory committee, plus a senior capstone project. Starting with the Class of 2022, the multidisciplinary distribution requirement is that at least two courses must be taken in each of the program’s three tracks:

(TRACK 1) Energy Science and Technology,

(TRACK 2) Energy and Environment,

(TRACK 3) Energy and Society.

Additionally, no more than two of the courses counting toward the program’s requirements can be required courses in  the student’s major. (There is no limit on elective courses in the major counting towards Energy Studies.) Double majors can use two courses each from those required for their two majors. At most one of the six courses counting for Energy Studies can be taken Pass/Fail or Credit/D/Fail. 

The capstone of the program is a senior project, which may take the form of a traditional senior essay or senior project (with permission, a student’s senior essay/project in the major may fulfill this requirement); a credited or uncredited indepedent study project completed in senior year; or an internship in an energy-related field following junior year with a written report submitted in senior year. The Energy Studies program and the Yale Center for International and Professional Experience can help with arranging internships.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

Yale Climate & Energy Institute (2009-16) launched the Energy Studies Undergraduate Scholars program in the fall of 2013 for a five-year trial period, with a curriculum encouraging undergraduates to explore the links between modern energy use and climate change. More than one hundred students completed the program’s requirements during its first five years, with nearly all going on to careers in energy-related fields. In May 2018, the Yale Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted to continue Energy Studies as a Multidisciplinary Academic Program (MAP) for another five-year term. Twenty-one graduates in the Class of 2021 completed the program’s requirements, making for a total of well over 200 Yale Energy Scholars since 2014. More than eighty rising juniors and seniors are enrolled in the curriculum for the 2021-22 academic year. 

The laws expressing the relations between energy and matter are not soley of importance in pure science. They necessarily come first…in the world record of human experience, and they control, in the last resort, the rise or fall of political systems, the freedom or bondage of nations, the movements of commerce and industry, the origin of wealth and poverty and…general physical welfare. 
— Frederick Soddy, Matter and Energy, 1912 (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1921)

It is fashionable to denigrate the achievements of modern industrial society [based on an abundance of energy] and compare them unfavourably with the imagined virtues of a simpler past…Of course they have not brought universal happiness. But it is silly to maintain that they have not freed many people from a great deal of pain and misery. The most serious objection to them is their exclusiveness. They have been confined to too few people. The challenge to democracy is to retain as much as possible of these good things while managing the great changes required in adjusting to a lower-energy way of life. If it fails, then the collapse into an authoritarianism of either the political right or left seems inevitable.
— Gerald Foley, The Energy Question, 1976

Designing effective measures to slow or prevent climate change requires understanding not only the physical laws that carbon dioxide obeys, but also the more fluid laws of politics and economics.
— William Nordhaus, The Climate Casino, 2015 (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2018)