Feb. 1, 2011

Sustainable energy systems minor now offered

Undergraduates wanting to better understand the world's energy needs can now supplement their Cornell degrees with a sustainability-focused minor.

The Sustainable Energy Systems minor is being offered through the College of Engineering starting this academic year, and like most minors, it is available to all undergraduates. Its administrative home is the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and it includes courses in such wide-ranging disciplines as biological and environmental engineering; earth and atmospheric sciences; and mechanical and aerospace engineering. Its broader aspects reach across the university to encompass environmental, economic and social impacts of energy technologies.

The minor, say college officials, is intended to emphasize viewing the challenge of meeting the world's energy needs as a "system of interacting themes." The philosophy of the minor is to view sustainable energy studies broadly, rather than as single disciplines, said Teresa Jordan, the J. Preston Levis Professor of Engineering in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and one of the faculty members who helped develop the minor.

"Social welfare in the broadest sense, energy and the environment are intricately woven in complex manners," Jordan said. "If we are going to improve the sustainability of our energy systems, you have to think about all those things. Expertise in just one of them won't be sufficient."

The minor's requirements include six courses (a minimum of 18 credits) over a wide breadth of categories: energy systems analysis; energy sources and technologies for a transition to sustainability; natural systems impacted by energy production and use; and social impact: policy, economics, business, history, ethics and risk analysis.

Course topics range from turbomachinery applications and hydrocarbon resources; to fundamentals of earth mineral resources; to electric power systems and combustion processes; to stream ecology, climate dynamics, environmental economics, and ethics and the environment.

Students can contact Carol Casler at cad1@cornell.edu with questions about eligibility.

More information is available online.