School for new energy planned
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2009
Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:02
In an attempt to increase UT's visibility and reputation for its alternative energy research, the efforts of some faculty and researchers may soon be combined within a new school devoted entirely to alternative energies.
The idea of strengthening UT's research in this field has been a topic of conversation among administrators and faculty for some time, said Main Campus Provost Rosemary Haggett. The conversation of how to organize and combine alternative energy efforts at UT has resulted in the idea of specific centers or institutes; however, Haggett said the idea for the new school began just a few months ago with Frank Calzonetti, the vice president for research development at UT.
Haggett enlisted the cooperation of deans from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business Administration and the College of Engineering in hopes of broadening the conversation around a new alternative energy school.
"We have faculty in all of those colleges that are already heavily engaged in this field, and it was my thinking if you bring people together, if you bring a lot of smart people together, really exciting things happen," Haggett said.
According to Haggett, one of the biggest topics of conversation concerning the creation of a new alternative energy school is whether to focus specifically on solar energy research or broaden the range of subjects to include other renewable technologies like wind energy or biofuels. In addition to that question, Haggett said there is also the possibility of creating individualized programs for each area of study.
"If you just say ‘solar,' then you would have fewer competing institutions, so you would be able to have visibility at the international level — you'd be able to have a niche," Calzonetti said.
If UT focuses on solar energy, it would have a lead over competing institutions, while broadening the subjects to other alternative energies would limit UT's visibility and leadership position, Calzonetti said. Although the reputation of UT as a leader may suffer, Calzonetti said there are also benefits if the school was to incorporate a broad array of alternative energy fields.
"The benefit of having it narrow is to have it focused and have a niche that you clearly are a leader in, but then you lose the ability to bring in related people, and, so, you don't have as many people from the campus and as many academic programs involved," Calzonetti said.
Because UT is well known and respected worldwide for its photovoltaic research, Haggett said a school specifically devoted to that technology would increase UT's focus and reputation in that field. However, she said her initial thinking is to create a school that combines the efforts of many alternative technologies.
"You should have a diversified portfolio," she said. "You shouldn't have all your investments in one place."
According to Calzonetti, the proposal for the new alternative energy-based school is still in the development phase, in which faculty are being recruited as possible "stakeholders" in the new school, to open up lines of communication about the school's future.
"What we have is people doing good work within individual departments, but, by having a dedicated school, we would increase our national and international visibility and bring in the research more closely to academic programs and attract students from throughout the world," Calzonetti said.
The project's facilitators are hoping to not only provide training and high-quality educations in alternative energies to the future generations of students at UT, but also attract investment opportunities to the local community, which would ultimately transform the region's economy, Calzonetti said.
Haggett said the new school would not include undergraduate education opportunities, but graduate students may have the opportunity to study within the school depending on the number of alternative energy interests the school includes.
"So, the first thing that would happen when the school gets created is that there'll be a focus primarily on research and the engagement and [technology] transfer piece," Haggett said.
Calzonetti said as the school evolves, the addition of academic programs would not only attract more visibility for UT but would also help strengthen the future of America and northwest Ohio.
"It would help provide more students coming out to support the workforce needed at all levels for the growing industry, because this industry is going to be here for a long time, and it's going to require the development of a lot of technology for many years to come," he said.
Calzonetti said having academic programs tied into "top notch" research facilities would attract businesses to the area looking to invest in renewable technologies.
"People who are interested in business in this area would want to come because they know they would be successful here and have access to the best minds," he said.
According to Calzonetti, the recent Campus of Energy Innovation proposal is separate from the idea of having a school devoted to renewable energy research; however, he said as both projects evolve over time, it is likely that some renewable energy demonstrations and research from the school may be moved to the new campus.
Dean of the College of Business Thomas Gutteridge said the new school is an exciting venture, specifically the work of commercializing the technology produced from solar energy research. Brian Randolph, interim associate dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, said the new school proposal will help solidify the current collaborations of faculty members in a number of departments.