Energy Studies

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS 

  • Energy Studies graduated 33 new Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2022, the program’s second largest cohort since its launch in the 2013-14 Academic Year. A total of 245 students representing 36 different majors at Yale have now completed the multidisciplinary academic program. A list of the majors and capstone projects of the Class of 2022 is below. A slideshow highlighting their work can be found HERE.
  • Because of disruptions during the last two academic years, applications to Energy Studies by the Class of 2024 and Class of 2023 are still being accepted. See Instructions for Applicants (above).
  • A  list of courses approved for credit in Energy Studies for the 2022-23 Academic Year is available here: COURSES.
  • Two Energy Studies seminars, ENRG 300 (F22), Multidisciplinary Topics in World Energy, and ENRG 400 (S23), Senior Capstone Seminar, will be offered in the 2022-23 Academic Year. ENRG 300 examines 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. Both courses can be found on Yale Course Search.
  • A new upper level course, ENRG 320/MENG 320/ENVE 320, Energy, Engines, and Climate, was added to the ENRG classification last year in collaboration with Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science and will continue to be offered in the 2022-23 Academic Year.  Consult Yale Course Search for further information.
  • 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 have delayed graduation to the Spring 2022 term.)
  • 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. 
  • The faculty advisory committee for Energy Studies for the 2022-23 Academic Year is: 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), Julia Noheim (Clean Energy Coordinator, CBEY); 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: 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
YALE ENERGY SCHOLARS CLASS OF 2022
Congratulations to the Energy Studies Class of 2022, and to their families, for their perserverance and tenacity during a extraordinary time! Here is a list of the graduates, their majors, and their remarkable and diverse collection of capstone projects.
 
  • Michael Adeyi (Chemical Engineering), Silver-Doped Hematite Nanosheet Catalyst for Oxidation of Methane to Methanol

  • Daniel Bacheschi (Electrical Engineering), Electrical Discharge Machining in Wind Generator Systems: A Review of Origins, Detection, and Proposed Solutions

  • Rachel Chang (Environmental  Studies; Political Science), Building a circular economy: plastics recycling in the United States

  • Taylor Chapman (Electrical Engineering), Smart Grid Innovation and Planning: An Internship at AVANGRID

  • Lauren Delgado (Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry), Syngas Fermentation by Acetogens via the Wood-Ljungdahl Pathway for Biorefinery

  • Lia Eggleston (Computer Science), Public Safety Analyses for Electric Operations at Con Edison: Report on an Internship

  • Freddie Elwes (Computer Science), Insight into an Investment Banking Internship in the Energy Sector

  • Chris Fake (Engineering Science-Chemical), Report on a twelve month internship at D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments

  • Ben Gibbs (Chemical Engineering), Electrochromism for Energy Conservation

  • Harrison Gill (Statistics & Data Science), An analysis of the impact of forest fires in Yosemite Valley water systems

  • Megan He (Environmental Engineering; Global Affairs), Airborne observations of “missing” reactive organic gas-phase emissions from oil sands operations

  • Sophie Isom (Engineering Science-Environmental), Building a World that Works? The Role of GE Gas Power and its Turbines in the Energy Transition

  • Sarah King (Environmental  Studies), The Future is Floating: A comparison of direct emissions associated with fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind farms

  • Sophie Lai (Earth & Planetary Sciences; Economics), The Carbonation of Serpentinites in the Orange-Milford Belt, Connecticut, USA

  • Linh Manh Le (Chemical Engineering), Lowering Energy Costs through Smart Filtration: An Internship at Phuc Labs, Inc.

  • Abigail Long (East Asian Studies), Illegal Rare Earth Element Mining: Southern China and Myanmar

  • Danielle Losos (Environmental  Studies), Weather satellites for wildfire tracking: Mapping burned area in near-real time using geostationary satellite data

  • Diego Meucci (Environmental  Studies), A Techno-Economic Analysis of Grid Enhancing Technologies: the Path Forward for America’s Energy Infrastructure

  • Liam Muldoon (Economics; History), Operation Bootstrap: Industrial Conquest and U.S. Colonial Expansion in Puerto Rico, 1930-1980: Focus on Energy Infrastructure

  • Wanjiku Mwangi (Engineering Science-Environmental; African Studies), Evaluating the potential of abandoned coal mine methane development in South Africa

  • Wyatt Nabatoff (Engineering Science-Mechanical), Biden Goes Nuclear: An SMR moonshot project for the United States and the world to achieve a zero-carbon future

  • Beatrice Pickett (Environmental  Studies; Political Science), Marine Renewable Energy in Oregon

  • Jack Pleasants (Political Science), The Waymaker: A Breakthrough Strategy to Tackle Climate Change

  • Alexandra Saczawa (Engineering Science-Chemical), Bipolar Membrane Assisted Electrosorption for Boron Removal and Recovery

  • Andrew Song (Global Affairs), Analysis of the Market and of Grid Capacity and Resilience for EV Charging in the U.S.

  • Will Strauch (Earth & Planetary Sciences), Nuclear Fusion: A Primer

  • Nico Trigo (Economics), The Tides Are Turning: If & How to Navigate the Climate Tech Wave: A White Paper on Climate-Tech Investing

  • Alex Urbahn (Economics), Energy Storage in the United States: Trends and Investment Opportunities

  • Quoc Trinh Elizabeth Van Ha (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), A dammed existence: the Ranganadi Dam’s impact on the reshaping of riverine communities of the fisher and the fished

  • Paulina Wells (Environmental Engineering), Development of geothermal district heating systems in the United States

  • Alex Wynn (Environmental  Studies), Carbon Dioxide Emissions Caused by Electricity Usage in Healthcare: Case Studies of the Yale New Haven Health System

  • Hannah Yi (Architecture), Desert Shores Hot Spring Spa (Salton Sea): Design for Sustainability

  • Raymond Zhao (Earth & Planetary Sciences), Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panel Identification and Fault Detection Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): A Case Study of a 0.5 MW PV System

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? Answers to these questions involve the science & technology of energy. Today, despite all the progress of the last twenty years in renewable energy sources like 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 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, heat waves, 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 and 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. Moreover, much of today’s dirtiest energy infrastructure is located near marginalized communities. What social and economic changes are needed to provide “Affordable and Clean Energy for All,” one of the 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. 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. Thirty-three graduates in the Class of 2022 completed the program’s requirements, bringing the total number of Yale Energy Scholars to 245. More than 70 rising juniors and seniors are enrolled in the curriculum for the 2022-23 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)