Santa Clara University Offers New Master’s Degree Program in Sustainable Energy

Oct. 6, 2011
Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering will launch a new master’s degree in sustainable energy (SE) this fall to strengthen the training students receive in renewable energy and sciences.

Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering will launch a new master’s degree in sustainable energy (SE) this fall to strengthen the training students receive in renewable energy and sciences. This program feeds the growing need and interest in understanding and solving environmental problems around the world.

“The establishment of a new master’s degree demonstrates and deepens Santa Clara University’s commitment to educate engineers who are technically competent and also socially compassionate and humane,” said Samiha Mourad, the advisor for the SE degree and an electrical engineering professor.

The SE master’s degree is by design an interdisciplinary program. Faculty from all facets of the engineering disciplines, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Business will participate. The result will be robust in coursework that focuses on societal responses to environmental problems, allowing graduate students to later pursue careers in energy management, smart grids, as well as energy generation and distribution. The program features a heavy reliance on project-based learning, case analyses, and industrial practices, so that course work is immediately applicable to responsibilities at work.

When the School of Engineering first offered a course in alternative energy in 2006, the class was always oversubscribed. At present, enrollment is more than 120 students per year. Also, as soon as a certificate in renewable energy was made available in September 2010, some 15 new students began the program. Enrollment in renewable energy courses was 500 last academic year, and now they are enthusiastic about enrolling in the SE master’s degree program.

The school’s popular graduate-level emerging topics short courses are also being offered to train Silicon Valley’s professionals to meet the changing demands in energy and to fulfill a pressing need in the rapidly growing renewable energy market in the Valley and in the world.

“Teaching energy” is not new to a School of Engineering that is celebrating its 100th birthday during the 2011-12 academic year. The university is both aware of the innovations in energy research and practices that have emanated in the last 40 years from the industry and eager to provide academic programs that embrace the industry’s priorities for the present and future, including computer-oriented energy management systems or “smart grids,” and other emerging energy technologies. Nearby companies such as ABB and Siemens are among the university’s partners in this endeavor, helping the university to fashion the curriculum and participating in teaching.

The School of Engineering also has a long history of involvement in sustainable energy studies. Nearly 50 years ago, the university put solar panels on a Santa Clara city building; in the 1960s, research began in electric power; and in the ’70s, faculty and students researched the use of methanol as a fuel supplement for automobiles.

More recently, the university’s success in the 2007 and 2009 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competitions—third place finishes in both international contests—has spurred SCU’s activity in this burgeoning field. Lively collaboration among several departments within the school has resulted in a number of new courses being offered in alternative energies, power electronics, and photovoltaic cells.

SE Master’s Degree program is open to all students who have completed their bachelor’s in any engineering discipline, including computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering. The School of Engineering is accepting applications for the fall enrollment. Classes begin Sept. 19. More information is available online.

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