MIT Commits to Energy Research, Education
Submitted by Shawn Reeves
May 3, 2006
Today the Massachusetts Institute of Technology formally unveiled its Energy Research Council Report, a guide to existing research and future actions in energy research and curriculum on campus. The school's President, Susan Hockfield opened the meeting and presided. Four panels presented their findings and highlights of their research, then took tough questions from the audience. For those of us who count, 16% of the speakers, 15% of the questioners, and about 25% of the audience were female; MIT did go coed in 1883, but there were some older alumni present.
We heard about the lastest research in commercialization of solar photovoltaics, energy storage, biofuels, fusion economics, thermoelectric nanomaterials, subsurface engineering and fossil fuel exploration, simulations of energy conversions, public attitudes, atmospheric chemistry, urban architecture, agriculture's impact on greenhouse gases, and polymeric solar cells.
As panelists presented more and more, cutting-edge research I began to get a picture of what amazing opportunities future students here would have. If we pre-college teachers care to prepare our students for such opportunities, we must include an introduction to many related topics at the pre-college level. So, based on topics presented, I devised a list of high-school level topics for consideration:
Batteries. Power transmission, both mechanical and electrical. Biomass resources. Carbohydrate chemistry. Subsurface science. Thermal transfer. Data logging. Computer modelling. Fuel chemistry. Reactive power (motors and other out-of-phase loads). Greenhouse gases. Engine cycles. Lab work too complicated for one person. Radioactivity.
I know most of us teach some of these topics already. But, ask yourself, how much of this is "on the test"?
To read the report and learn more about MIT's new push for energy research and education, go to