Penn’s EnerFront Sparks New Ideas on Energy Sustainability

September 29, 2016

A new collaboration, EnerFront, is leading a series of forums through the fall semester to invite researchers from different disciplines to talk about energy. The concept originated with Reto Gieré, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, and the department’s research program manager, Svetlana Milutinović. They hope the initiative, now in its second semester, will continue building a community of researchers from around the University.

Gieré, whose work focuses in part on energy-waste disposal, explained that he and Milutinović decided to foster collaboration about energy because it is an issue that spans so many disciplines. But those doing energy research at Penn weren’t necessarily aware of one another.

“Basically the decision came from a desire to get to know other people on campus doing similar things,” says Gieré.

“Sustainability,” says Milutinović, “is a much broader concept which spills over into economic and social and political and cultural systems, so it really is very multi-disciplinary.“

One aim of EnerFront is to offer faculty a chance to forge these cross-disciplinary collaborations by first simply learning about one another’s work. Beginning last spring, Giere and Milutinović organized a series of faculty gatherings, each with a particular theme. Each gathering was followed by a community seminar in which students, staff, and members of the public were invited to learn more about the topic.

The initiative reflects the School’s prioritization of finding sustainable approaches to capturing and converting energy—articulated in the strategic plan. Examples include the launch of the Vagelos Institute of Energy Science and Technology, a new institute that will bring together world-class researchers to solve scientific and technological problems related to alternative sources of energy and energy use and storage; the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), a dual-degree program designed to involve students in energy research early; and the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities (PPEH), a collective of scholars, students, and artists working to generate awareness and engagement in the environment by acting as a bridge between disciplines and audiences.

Click here to read the full article on EnerFront.