Understanding energy by degrees

May 1, 2012
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2012

A new energy future can be built only if there are enough qualified and experienced engineers. Now, tomorrow’s energy engineers can start their energy technology and infrastructure training at Berkeley.

To meet student demand for more energy-related courses, both the undergraduate and graduate engineering programs have new interdisciplinary programs designed to develop engineering problem-solving and leadership skills.

 A new undergraduate major in energy engineering launching this fall will bring together a number of energy-related classes already offered by the college with courses in ethics, policy and economics.

“To some extent, all engineering programs address aspects of energy-related issues,” says Tarek Zohdi, chair of the engineering science program. “However, no single program pulls all these aspects together in a comprehensive way. This new major closes that gap.”

The new undergraduate energy major dovetails with what is happening at the graduate level. Eight students have just completed the first year of a new graduate program in energy, civil infrastructure and climate (ECIC).

“We came up with the ECIC program because there was so much going on in the field,” says Arpad Horvath, a professor of civil engineering and ECIC program leader. “But what sets us apart is the focus on infrastructure.”

Like the energy engineering undergraduate major, the ECIC graduate degree is interdisciplinary and incorporates energy education and research courses from other colleges on campus. “There’s an effort to teach us more about policy and economics so we can make rational decisions,” says Alexei Bordas, a current ECIC student. “That’s very important to get change to happen.”