Project Details


IGERT: Solar Utilization Network (SUN) IGERT: Solar Utilization Network (SUN) Intellectual Merit. Arizona State University (ASU)s IGERT SUN program focuses on the energy transition from the current fossil-fuel-based economy to one where solar energy harvested by means of photovoltaics, solar-thermal, and photosynthesis-driven bioenergy approaches will become a keystone in global human energy use. This transition to a global sustainable energy framework will be influenced not only by scalability, efficiency and economy of these three technical solar energy conversion approaches, but also by societal issues such as sustainability policy and responsible energy use. Therefore, interdisciplinary training in multiple solar energy conversion areas at different scales, integrated with a policy and social understanding, will be required to educate the next generation of diverse citizen-scientists, innovative thinkers and enlightened policy makers who can guide society toward a sustainable energy future. This IGERT SUN program is designed to accomplish such a multi-disciplinary training of diverse student cohorts required for development of a sustainable energy future. In the first year, students will receive integrative goal-oriented training enabled through a core course series that focuses on foundational challenges in the transition to a solar-based energy portfolio. This course series will transcend disciplines, involve a highly integrated faculty participant pool, and provide a contextualization of solar energy utilization. This course work, in conjunction with intensive faculty and peer mentoring, will contribute to the students development of dissertation projects that address an often interdisciplinary foundational energy challenge. In addition, students from different backgrounds will be encouraged to embark on collaborative projects to bring their ideas to practical fruition; such projects will foster a spirit of innovation that is enhanced further by an entrepreneurship program. To further broaden global insights and understanding, students will be encouraged to participate in a four-week solar-energy-focused program in The Netherlands (Delft and Wageningen) with participation-intensive workshops and courses. A short visit to ITESM (Monterrey, Mexico) to compare steps in the energy transition in the US and Mexico will be part of the curriculum as well, along with an energy-focused policy workshop in Washington, DC. Broader Impacts. ASU is taking a leadership role regarding an integration of research, education and policy issues in solar energy utilization. It is also working at the leading edge of a transformation from the current fossil-fuel-focused global energy supply to a sustainable, solar-energy-based platform. In order to further enhance inclusion of students from all backgrounds, the IGERT SUN program will leverage ASUs collaborative agreements with Californian schools with significant enrollment of underrepresented groups and link with existing programs at ASU that train a large number of minority undergraduate students, particularly Hispanics and Native Americans, to lower barriers for under-represented minorities (URMs) for admission to graduate school. Effective mentoring and use-inspired, application-oriented, integrative research projects will enhance retention of URMs in the program. The IGERT SUN program will track graduates careers and impact, and internal and external evaluations of the program will help to further improve its effectiveness. In the first years, IGERT SUN students will obtain their PhD in a traditional degree program within engineering, the natural sciences, or the social sciences, with a concentration in Energy. This program will provide the groundwork for an Energy PhD program that will be offered through the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU by 2016 and that will offer longevity to new curricular developments started through the IGERT SUN program. A main outcome of the IGERT SUN program will be the training of a new cadre of broadly thinking citizen-scientists with a PhD or concentration in Energy who can lead the way in the transition to a sustainable energy future. The students trained in this program will not be sufficient to catalyze a transition of enormous proportion such as the transition from fossil fuels to renewable, solar-based energy. Successes from our program can be emulated and adapted at other institutions nationally and globally, thus catalyzing the training of a much larger group of students who can shepherd society to a new, sustainable energy future. Keywords. Energy, Engineering, Life and Chemical Sciences, Education.
Effective start/end date7/1/126/30/19


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $3,006,642.00


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