October 11, 2013

Sustainability and Energy Internship Experience

This past summer I was able to participate in an excellent educational program: the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (SISE). The SISE program, which is partially funded by the US Department of Energy, brings together a cross disciplinary group of students and professionals from across the United States to learn about and engage the issues around the United States’ energy infrastructure. The two-week program was housed on UIC’s campus.

The Institute is made up of several components, the largest being the lecture series that forms the basis of the educational program. Almost everyday for two weeks we learned from professionals from different fields relevant to the energy industry, such as: urban planning, infrastructure development, energy generation and distribution, business, economics, policy and law.  Some of our lecturers were scientists from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), economists from the University of Chicago and policy makers from the Department of Energy.

Non-lecture components of SISE included field trips to ANL and meetings with the Clean Energy Trust (CET). At ANL we learned about some of their research. The research I found most interesting was a project that was a partnership with FedEx around electric delivery trucks. The results of their work showed that electric delivery trucks were much less costly than their conventional diesel counterparts when used in dense urban areas. This was due to the efficiency electric vehicle motors have over conventional motors, especially in constant stop and go applications. CET offers business development to clean energy start-up companies. They work with a variety of firms ranging from solar energy to battery technologies. We got to meet most of their staff and learn about exciting clean tech firms based in Chicago.

When we weren’t in lectures or on field trips, we were working on our projects. All SISE participants were split up into cross-disciplinary teams and set to work on a problem. My team had an environmental and an aerospace engineer, an urban planner and a Ph.D. student in urban sustainability. Our project was creating a hybrid electric-natural gas vehicle and a plan to develop the needed infrastructure for such a car.  By combining research from what we had been learning in and outside lectures, we presented our work at the end of the program.

The experience overall was intense but incredibly rewarding. It was a crash course in how energy works in our country and all of the issues surrounding it. Such an education was invaluable, especially because I want to go into the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry.

This opportunity came by way of the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value. It was Beau Daane, the Fowler Center Director, who told me about the program and encouraged me to apply. Roger Sallaint, the Fowler Center’s Executive Director, wrote me a letter of recommendation. If it wasn’t for them, I most likely would not have been able to attend. SISE was just one of the great opportunities in the realm of sustainability that I have been able to experience at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value.


As a second year MBA student here at Weatherhead School of Management, I write about how I’ve been able to use my time at the school to dive into the sustainable business world. I'll describe my experience with different projects, fellowships and other programs in and outside the school. In my studies I focus on sustainability and finance. 

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