An integrated and multidisciplinary approach to environmental awareness and sustainability, the program has a strong focus on science and engineering.
Mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) professor Yiguang Ju, the sustainability program’s new director, said in an interview that the certificate program aims “to have our students know that the energy problem cannot be solved from only a technological perspective, but with [the perspectives of both] science and engineering combined.”
While peer institutions like MIT are involved in energy seminars open to student participation, Ju said that Princeton is “probably the first to create a certificate program.” He added that the program already has active students.
The program’s faculty is composed of professors in disciplines ranging from MAE to geosciences, chemistry, civil and environmental engineering, and public policy.
Ju stressed the importance of scholarship surrounding sustainability, noting that the program’s faculty “think that energy is one of the biggest issues affecting our economy and technological growth, and also the environment.”
“It’s not a united strength,” Ju said of the University’s current sustainability research. “We lack a complete program to thematically educate students in the basic knowledge of the technologies and energy sources out there.”
While undergraduates can already pursue a certificate in environmental studies (ENV), MAE professor Emily Carter said that the environmental certificate does not “focus on energy as much as this program does.”
The ENV certificate program requires students to take one core class and four upper-level cognate classes in three of four different fields: natural sciences, engineering, humanities or social sciences. The Program in Sustainable Energy, however, is selective and far more focused on science and engineering.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in the sustainable energy program must complete both MAT 103: Calculus and MAT 104: Calculus and PHY 103: General Physics I and PHY 104: General Physics II or their equivalents. Students then submit an application to the Program Committee.
Carter described the new program in sustainable energy as “timely.”
“It’s clear that ... the most important problems that engineers and scientists should be thinking about addressing in the coming years are problems having to do with gaining energy independence, getting us off of oil and cleaning up the environment,” Carter said.
Carter added that the certificate will benefits students whether or not they decide to take jobs related to sustainability.
“When [our students] go out into the world, they’ll be in a position to either work in the field or at least be well educated when making business decisions and when voting,” she said.
Funding for the program included contributions from the University’s 250 Anniversary Grant and the Princeton Environmental Institute’s Grand Challenge Initiative.