Energy Studies

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Office hours for Energy Studies for the Spring Term are Wednesday, 4 to 5.30p, in KGL 119, or by appointment (email michael.oristaglio@yale.edu).
  • A list of Spring Term 2024 courses satisfying Energy Studies requirements can be downloaded HERE. The list is not exhaustive, as many courses can qualify under the provisional rule (see PROVISIONAL AND SUMMER COURSES under Requirements). Assignment of a course in this list to one (or more) tracks of the program is based on the course’s main content but is flexible and can be changed based on a student’s submitted coursework.
  • SAVE THE DATE: Energy Studies Winter Reception is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 30, from 4.30 to 6pm at the Yale Carbon Containment Lab (87 Audubun St).
  • Energy Studies graduated 30 Yale Energy Scholars with the Class of 2023 in Commencement ceremonies on May 22. (Two more from the original Energy Studies Class of 2023 will graduate in the Fall.)  The group earned 40 B.A. or B.S. degrees in 16 different majors, including a combined B.S./M.S. degree. Several received academic awards in their majors.
  • A PDF slide show celebrating the achievements of Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2023 can be found HERE.
  • A team of Energy Studies students led by the Class of 2023 won second place overall in the first Hydropower Collegiate Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  The competition challenges teams of students from U.S. colleges and universities to re-imagine the future of hydropower with a case study of a local hydropower plant. The Yale team chose to analyze the Rocky River Pumped Storage Hydropower plant in New Milford, Connecticut, which opened in 1927 as the first PSH plant to be built in the U.S. The Yale team also won first place in the Creating Connections competition, involving outreach and education about renewable energy in local communities.
  • Energy Studies was approved as a new Interdisciplinary Certificate program by the Yale College Faculty at its meeting on February 2, 2023.
  • Submitting an application to enroll in the program is no longer required. Students can declare their candidacy to complete the Energy Studies Interdisiplinary Certificate by filling out a form on the Registrar’s Office website (HERE). Completing the form will register a student in Energy Studies with Yale College, generate an email to the program director, and put Energy Studies into the student’s Degree Audit.
  • The course requirments for the Energy Studies certificate remain unchanged: Six courses from an approved list, with two courses in each of the three tracks of Energy Studies (see Requirements for more details).
  • A capstone project is no longer required, but students still have the option of completing an energy-related project in the Energy Studies senior seminar, ENRG 400.
  • More than 50 students from the Class of 2025 have enrolled in the Energy Studies Interdisciplinary Certificate.

  • Energy Studies brochure for the 2023-24 Academic Year is HERE.
  • Yale Energy Studies Student and Alumni group on LinkedIn is HERE.
  • Two Energy Studies seminars, ENRG 300 (F23), Multidisciplinary Topics in World Energy, and ENRG 400 (Sp24), Senior Capstone Seminar, will be offered in the 2023-24 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 do an optional capstone project 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.
  • For students interested in an early start on post-graduate internships and fellowships, US Department of Energy announced a new program last spring called Clean Energy Innovator Fellowship, which funds recent graduates and energy professionals to work with critical energy organizations to advance clean energy solutions.
  • A new upper level course, ENRG 320/MENG 320/ENVE 320, Energy, Engines, and Climate, was added to the ENRG classification in 2021 in collaboration with Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science and will continue to be offered in the 2023-24 Academic Year.  Consult Yale Course Search for further information.
  • Energy Studies graduated 33 Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2022. A slideshow highlighting their work is HERE.
  • Energy Studies graduated 21 Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2021. A slideshow highlighting their work is HERE.
  • Energy Studies graduated 41 Yale Energy Scholars in the Class of 2020, the program’s largest cohort. 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 2023-24 Academic Year is: Gary Brudvig (Chemistry; Energy Sciences Institute), Amber Garrard (Office of Sustainability), Michael Fotos (Political Science; DUS, Environmental Studies), Ken Gillingham (F&ES, Economics, School of Management), Cary Krosinsky (School of Management), Julia Nojeim (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. 
YALE ENERGY SCHOLARS CLASS OF 2023
Congratulations to the Energy Studies Class of 2023, 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.
 
  • Anna Albright (Environmental Studies), Tyranny of The Isms: How Environmentalism is Appropriated to Block Decarbonization of America’s Electrical Grid

  • Nikola Bakoc (Engineering Science-Mechanical; Engineering Science-Electrical), The Criticism of Nordhaus’s Social Cost of Carbon

  • Michelle Barsukov (Engineering Science-Chemical; Economics), Technical Costing Configuration of Water Treatment System

  • Riis (William John) Card (Mechanical Engineering; Film and Media Studies), Small-Scale Production of Hydrogen Using Bulk Metallic Glasses

  • Tilden Chao (Economics), A Roadmap for Lifecycle Refrigerant Management at Yale University

  • Mary Chen (Political Science), Evaluating the Risk of Oil Spills in the Arctic Region of Alaska

  • Noah Friedlander (Global Affairs), Housing Constraints and Household Energy Consumption in the United States

  • Liam Galloway (Environmental Studies), The Locational Suitability of In-Stream Hydrokinetic Turbines: A Regional Assessment
  • Saachi Grewal (Applied Physics), Designing Plasma Electrochemical Methods for Enhanced N2 and CO2 Conversion
  • Alexandra Griffith (Environmental Engineering), Evaluating Methane Emissions and Mitigation Strategies on Small- and Mid-Sized Dairy Farms
  • Iszac Henig (Earth & Planetary Sciences), Emily’s Electric Adventure: Crafting a Kid’s Book About Electrification and Climate Change
  • Caitlin Henry (Economics), Sustainable Livestock Farming
  • Brianna Jefferson (Environmental Studies), The Future of Urban Agriculture and Hydroponics to Address Environmental Justice Issues
  • Katerina Kargioti (Applied Physics), Regional Analysis of Excess Power Available in 11 Selected Locations across the United States
  • Emma Levin (Applied Mathematics), Harnessing a Hurricane’s Energy in a Warming Climate
  • Evan Lipton (Engineering Science-Mechanical; Statistics and Data Science), Nuclear Fusion: The Potential Silver Bullet to Our Climate Issue
  • Charlie Loitman (Engineering Science-Mechanical; Economics), Changing the Way the World Is Built: Rebar Placement in 3D Printing of Concrete
  • Anya Lomsadze (Statistics and Data Science), Optimizing Demand Energy Response (DER): An Internship at the Company Voltus
  • Neal Ma (Physics (Intensive)), Optimality of Thermal Energy Storage for Nuclear Power
  • Eliza Poggi (Earth & Planetary Sciences), Reduce, Reuse, Reprocess: An Overview of Medical Device Reprocessing and Potential for Future Analysis
  • Abdoulie Sarr (Economics; Engineering Science-Chemical), The Marginal Impact of the African Development Bank’s Energy Supply and Infrastructure Funding on Electricity Access
  • Naomi Shimberg (Ethics, Politics, and Economics), Intragenerational Equity in the Social Cost of Carbon
  • Wyatt Sluga (Engineering Science-Mechanical), Creating Sustainable Buildings: An Internship at Arup
  • Katrina Starbird (Earth & Planetary Sciences), Rocky River in 95% Renewable Future: Case Study Analysis for the Hydropower Collegiate Competition
  • Shayaan Subzwari (Physics (intensive)), Rocky River in 95% Renewable Future: Case Study Analysis for the Hydropower Collegiate Competition
  • Alex Surratt (Engineering Science-Mechanical; Economics), A Summer in Renewable Energy Development: Where Is It Going? What Comes Next?
  • Samuel Thompson (Economics), Marine Dolphin Enterprises and Hydrogen’s Potential in Aviation
  • Aimee Titche (Environmental Engineering), Enhanced Weathering as a Negative Emissions Technology for Application in Wastewater Treatment Plants
  • Gavrielle Welbel (Engineering Science-Mechanical; Earth & Planetary Sciences), Thermal analysis of the Solar Enclosure for Water Reuse Water Disinfection System
  • Patrick Yang (Economics), To Ski or Not to Ski: The Present and Future of Ski Resort Emissions

ENERGY STUDIES

Energy Studies is an Interdisciplinary Certificate program in Yale College. The curriculum is designed to provide enrolled 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 phone, or to heat the space and 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 Equity 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. One of the six courses should normally include the Energy Studies seminar, Topics in World Energy (ENRG 300), which can be taken during junior or senior year (exceptions can be granted by the Certificate Director). Students also have the option (not requirement) of doing a capstone project in senior year in the Energy Studies senior seminar (ENRG 400). 

Two of the courses taken for Energy Studies can count toward the requirements of the student’s major. One of the six courses counting for Energy Studies can be taken Pass/Fail or Credit/D/Fail.

Students can declare their candidacy to complete the Energy Studies Interdisiplinary Certificate by filling out a form on the Registrar’s Office website (HERE). Submitting an application to the program is no longer required. Completing the form will register a student in Energy Studies with Yale College, generate an email to the program, and put Energy Studies into the student’s Degree Audit.

Graduates of the program are invited to join the Yale Alumni in Energy organization.

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. In February 2023, the faculty approved Energy Studies as one of the new Interdiscipllinary Certficate programs in Yale College, making it a part of the regular curriculum. Thirty graduates in the Class of 2023 completed the program’s requirements, bringing the total number of Yale Energy Scholars to 275. Nearly 100 rising seniors, juniors, and sophomores are enrolled in the curriculum for the 2023-24 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)