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Duke's First Energy Minors Demonstrate Burgeoning Professional Demand

Commencement season brought evidence of the continual and growing demand for undergraduate energy education programs at Duke University.

Commencement season brought evidence of the continual and growing demand for undergraduate energy education programs at Duke University, as the Pratt School of Engineering graduated its first students in its minor in Energy Engineering and the Certificate in Energy and the Environment bid farewell to another hefty class.

Energy minor recipients (left to right) Erik Lowe, Kevin Shenk, Robinson Ford and Bradley CurranThe minor, launched in 2013 under the direction of Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Marc Deshusses, requires coursework in two technical focus areas. The generation and delivery category includes topics such as Renewable Energy Technologies, Modern Power Systems and Deshusses' own Bioenergy course. In the conversion and efficiency category, students can take such courses as Transportation Energy and Energy for the Built Environment. The final requirement for the minor is a capstone design project.

The energy engineering minor is already paying dividends for this year's graduates, all four of whom majored in mechanical engineering. They're all headed for the energy sector, having landed jobs with prestigious corporations like Schlumberger, Siemens and Tesla Motors.

"I am excited to see these students graduating with the minor. This is an important milestone," Deshusses said.

In developing the minor, Deshusses surveyed a number of Pratt alumni and industry professionals, discovering an immense demand for engineers with a technical understanding of energy and energy technologies. He looks forward to expanding the program's portfolio of course offerings to assure that the program becomes instrumental in fulfilling that demand.Marc Deshusses, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who launched the Energy Minor in 2013.

The energy engineering minor complements the interdisciplinary Certificate in Energy and the Environment, which saw a graduating class of 19 students this spring. In addition to courses in science and technology, the certificate – open to undergraduates from both Pratt and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences – includes coursework in markets and policy as well as environmental science in order to "develop innovative thinkers and leaders who understand the energy system as a whole," as its mission statement attests. It culminates in a capstone project.

Like their peers in the minor, many of the 2015 certificate graduates are embarking on energy careers, joining firms such as GE, NextEra and the Macquarie Group. They'll bring with them significant interdisciplinary knowledge and research experience garnered through their team capstone projects. Supervised by certificate co-directors Josiah D. Knight and Emily Klein, these projects yielded functional prototypes for a solar-powered autoclave and an off-grid ice maker for vaccine storage, as well as feasibility studies on a number of novel uses for flare gas.

The certificate's broad curricular approach represents a microcosm of the wide variety of opportunities for energy students at Duke. More than 1,400 students enrolled in 54 energy-related courses across six different schools during the 2014-15 academic year.

For more about the new Energy Minor, read the recent story written by engineering undergraduates in the 2015 DukEngineer.