Program in Sustainable Energy

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Program in Sustainable Energy is designed for Princeton undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing careers or graduate education in the area of sustainable energy science and technology to achieve:

1. An understanding of current energy resources, carriers, end users, technologies, and their impact on climate and environment.

2. The ability to quantitatively analyze, design, and develop innovative energy systems and technologies that support sustainable economic growth, energy security, biological diversity, and environmental harmony for life on Earth.

3. An understanding of Earth, global climate, and environmental change from the perspective of engineering, technology, economics, and policy.

The future of societies, the global economy, and the global environment depend on collaborative research into renewable energy, alternative fuels, advanced energy conversion and storage systems, technology transfer to developing countries, and prudent judgment on policies to support sustainable energy technology. Innovations and inventions require multidisciplinary approaches and entrepreneurship, as well as grounding in theory and practice, in topics that are not covered by a single department. This certificate program offers an integrated set of core and elective courses, introducing students to fundamental concepts, providing depth in specific fields of interest, gaining laboratory and site visit experiences, and setting the stage for further work in the field. Students are encouraged to expand their experience through summer internships with companies, government agencies, national and university laboratories.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have a satisfactory background in engineering and science. Normally, students should have successfully completed MAT 103, MAT 104, PHY 103, and PHY 104 (or their equivalents, including AP equivalents). Students who have slightly different preparation should consult with the program director to discuss eligibility. A student planning to earn the program certificate should complete the online Student Profile at the program website as early as possible, and no later than the mid-point of the fall term of his or her junior year. Application for admission is made to the Program Committee. Upon acceptance to the program, the program director will assign a program adviser to the student to assist in planning a program of study, research, and off-campus internship.

Program of Study

A concentrator in this program must satisfy both program and departmental requirements. The program for each student is worked out by the student and his or her departmental adviser. The program requirements are as follows:

1. All students must take six courses, including two core courses and four elective courses. The two core courses must be taken by choosing one from the Introduction to Energy Technology category (A1) and the other one from the Introduction to Climate Change and Geo-environmental Science category (A2), respectively. Depending on the student's interest and background, the four elective courses should be taken with at least one from a different category (B1 and B2). In case the listed courses are not offered, students need to consult the program director for an alternative course. To qualify for the certificate, a minimum grade average of B- in the six program courses, and an independent work project or senior thesis, is required. In some cases, an elective course that fulfills a certificate program requirement can also meet a regular departmental requirement.  If a student is enrolled in more than one certificate program, there may be no more than three overlapping courses between the Sustainable Energy program and any other program.

Core Courses (one from each category -- A1 and A2). Consult the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE) website for the current list of approved courses.

A1. Introduction to Energy Technology
A2. Introduction to Climate Change and Geo-environmental Science

Elective Courses (four courses with at least one from a different subject area -- B1 and B2). Consult the ACEE website for the current list of approved courses.
B1. Energy Science and Technology (Fossil energy, non-fossil and renewable energy, energy conversion and storage systems and technologies)
B2. Environmental Science and Geoscience (Earth science, climate, environment, ecosystems, policy and economic assessments of carbon capture and storage technology)

2. A senior independent work project or thesis whose topic is relevant to the program and acceptable to the Program Committee must be completed. The project or thesis title and abstract need to be presented to and approved by the program director. In addition, a minimum grade of B- for the project or thesis is required to qualify for the certificate.  Students are required to present their project/thesis to faculty and program students at an annual symposium held in the spring.

3. Close collaboration with faculty is expected. Program students are expected to demonstrate strong academic performance. Program courses may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis unless that is the only grading alternative for the course.

4. For the program enrollment, students must fill out the Student Profile form on the program website. It is especially important to assure that requirements for the certificate will be met by the end of the senior year.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all program requirements will receive a certificate of proficiency in sustainable energy upon graduation.

Seminars on Energy and the Environment. Seminars on energy and environment are announced to all students registered in this program. Advanced students are encouraged to attend regularly scheduled departmental and Princeton Environmental Institute seminars to further enrich their understanding of the field.

Undergraduate Independent Research Projects. Undergraduate projects usually are undertaken for independent work or senior thesis credit, and opportunities exist for summer and work-study projects. These projects typically last for one or two academic terms, although they may extend over greater periods of time. Students work closely with faculty and staff members in academic departments and University-associated laboratories such as the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and they have access to sophisticated computers and experimental facilities while conducting their independent research.

Undergraduate Off-Campus Experiences and Internships. Students are encouraged to expand their experience through site visits and to summer internships with companies, government agencies, national and university laboratories (e.g., PPPL). The energy-technology core course will provide several off-campus site visit experiences to power generation stations, a fusion laboratory, and energy research labs on campus.