NREL and Mines Launch Transformational Grad Program

Nov. 29, 2018

Scientists work on lab equipment

Powering our future society will require energy systems and infrastructure that are more expansive, secure, and resilient than today’s. It will also require thought leaders and innovators who can capably and creatively guide this vital energy sector transition.

To address these needs, NREL and Colorado School of Mines are piloting a novel Advanced Energy Systems (AES) graduate program in fall 2019.

Traditional energy programs typically focus on individual technology areas, economics, or policy. By contrast, the  interdisciplinary Mines/NREL AES degree program combines the technical, scientific, and analysis strengths of two world-class research institutions to provide a breadth of energy knowledge and training. The program is designed to prepare both researchers at the doctoral level and energy professionals at the master’s level to address the full complexity of tomorrow’s energy, infrastructure, economic, and environmental challenges.

A Transformational Vision Seeded at DOE Takes Root at Mines

“The idea for this program came to me while I was working as a senior technology adviser for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in 2016,” said Sridhar Seetharaman, associate vice president for research and technology transfer at Mines. “I envisioned a distinctive interdisciplinary educational opportunity focused on integrated approaches to solving pressing energy and environmental challenges.”

After Seetharaman joined Mines, he sought buy-in from NREL Director Martin Keller and Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology Peter Green to advance his idea for capitalizing on the deep engineering, science, analysis and policy expertise of both institutions to empower aspiring energy leaders to advance their transformative missions.

“NREL and Mines’ complementary missions and exceptional people form the basis of a longstanding and fruitful collaborative relationship between our two institutions,” said Green “The Advanced Energy Systems program offers unique opportunities for graduate students to learn from NREL researchers and Mines faculty about challenges associated with the global energy transition and to develop tools that enable them to collaboratively contribute meaningful solutions.”

With NREL leadership on board, Seetharaman worked with Adam Warren, director of NREL’s Integrated Applications Center and an adjunct professor at Mines, to bring his vision to life. As program-co-directors the two worked with faculty from across NREL and Mines to develop the program and design the curriculum.

Laboratory Rotations Offer Deep Experience Solving Grand Challenges

At the heart of the doctoral program are two 12-week rotations at NREL, where Ph.D. students will get the opportunity to learn alongside leading-edge researchers and industry partners in NREL’s state-of-the-art labs. The rotations align with multiple NREL directorates to provide students a breadth of energy knowledge and training as they progress through the curriculum:

  • Rotation I: Analysis of Integrated Energy Systems
    • Energy Systems Integration
    • Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis
  • Rotation II: Energy Science and Technologies
    • Bioenergy Science and Technology
    • Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences
    • Materials and Chemical Science and Technology.

A non-thesis master’s degree option will also be available, offering students similar access to joint Mines/NREL seminars, networking, professional development and recruiting opportunities.

“This is an elite program designed to get the best of the best students into research quickly,” said Juan Torres, associate laboratory director for Energy Systems Integration. “Now graduate researchers can have direct access to a lab that is changing the world. We’re putting world-class researchers and capabilities and cutting-edge tools and equipment at their fingertips so they can apply their skills to develop solutions to real challenges.”

Aspiring energy leaders and innovators who want to further their education while contributing to a more secure, resilient, and sustainable energy future have a golden opportunity to rise to that challenge. Mines began accepting applications for the AES program November 12, offering priority consideration to those who apply by December 15. The final application deadline is April 15. Learn more.