Energy Research at Dartmouth

Taking on the Challenge

Finding ways to develop and scale up sustainable sources of energy is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Societies around the globe are rapidly reaching consensus that fossil fuels are finite, that climate change is real, and that bold, pioneering work is urgently needed to make the planet livable for future generations.

The Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society draws on the liberal arts tradition that is at the heart of multidisciplinary research and education at Dartmouth. Students will work toward energy sustainability with a growing number of distinguished faculty from the arts and sciences, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. Scholars will benefit from partnerships with the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, and the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network. Large enough to produce path-breaking research, yet small enough to nurture collaboration, Dartmouth provides fertile ground for innovative teaching and scholarship that result in real-world impact.

In every corner of the campus, across curricular boundaries, faculty and students are already engaged in research and entrepreneurship related to energy and sustainability.

Engineering and Energy

Thayer School of Engineering is renowned for interdisciplinary teamwork, driving collaboration and discovery. It has the highest percentage of faculty entrepreneurs of any engineering school in North America. Energy technology is one of three areas of focus, representing a key component of the school’s planned expansion. Faculty and students at Thayer use their joint expertise in biochemical, chemical, electrical, and materials engineering—as well as in chemistry, microbiology, and physics—to study energy-related issues. For example:

The Intersection of Academia and Industry

At the Tuck School of Business, students are prepared to be principled leaders working at the intersection of business and society. Tuck faculty often apply their research to real-world problems. For example:

Erin Mansur, the Revers Professor of Business Administration, has been examining how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, affects local employment and wages, and how natural gas prices affect power plants emissions.

Ron Adner, Tuck’s David T. McLaughlin ’54, T’55 Professor, focuses on innovation, strategy, and entrepreneurship.

Constance Helfat, the J. Brian Quinn Professor in Technology and Strategy, studies the nature of strategic change in organizations, particularly those that result from emerging technology.

Tuck’s Revers Energy Initiative is integrating energy issues into the MBA curriculum and helping students build pathways to the energy industry.

The Dartmouth Energy Collaborative, a student-led initiative with members from Tuck, Thayer, and Vermont Law School, reflects a growing student interest in energy issues.

Energy, Society, and the Arts & Sciences

On Earth Day in 1996, the Dartmouth faculty approved a new major in environmental studies. The College also offers a minor in environmental science and a minor in environmental studies, including a specific sustainability track within the environmental studies minor. Undergraduates may also use environmental studies courses to modify a major in disciplines such as biology, geography, government, economics, and earth sciences. Faculty expertise is wide ranging. For example, Douglas Bolger studies how human land use affects animal and plant populations, and directs the Environmental Studies Africa Foreign Studies Program. Richard Howarth researches the interface between economic theory and the ecological, moral, and social dimensions of environmental issues. Anne Kapuscinski, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Sustainability Science, focuses on the relationships among sustainable energy and food systems, including aquaculture. Christopher Sneddon investigates the transformation of river basins due to large-scale development.

In the Department of Geography, researchers are investigating how both climate and human activity affect the planet. For example, Francis Magilligan, the Frank J. Reagan ’09 Chair of Policy Studies, focuses primarily on hydrology, paying attention to how stream channels and watersheds respond to environmental change—natural or man-made. Assistant Professor of Geography Jonathan Winter explores how variable climates affect water resources and agriculture.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—using pressurized liquids to create cracks in rock formations through which natural gas and petroleum can flow—affects the environment in ways not yet fully understood. Mukul Sharma, a professor of earth sciences, is studying the wastewater that results from the practice. Carl Renshaw, who teaches in the Department of Earth Sciences and at Thayer, is a hydrologist who studies how waterways are changed by disturbances, including dams, floods, and contamination.

Computer science students at Dartmouth acquire computational tools empowering them to develop new technologies designed to improve the world around them. Many faculty and students are working together to make electrical grids more efficient and resistant to cyber-attack. For over a decade, Sean Smith and Sergey Bratus in Computer Science have been working on making the power grid more resilient to cyber-attack as founding members of TCIPG (Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid). Student-built projects have seen deployment in real grid settings. Dartmouth Computer Science is a founding and continuing member of the Department of Energy’s consortium for resilient energy delivery systems (CREDC). Both Smith and Bratus are leaders in Dartmouth’s Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS).

Centers of Excellence

At the Irving Institute, students and faculty will have the chance to collaborate with participants in other academic centers at Dartmouth, including the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN). The College’s John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding has a history of studying Canadian-U.S. relations. The center’s U.S.-Canada Institute hosts conferences, often in conjunction with Queens University, and brings speakers to Dartmouth. In addition, the center’s Institute of Arctic Studies is a leader in polar studies, focusing on the environmental, cultural, and political dimensions of a changing climate. Ross Virginia, the director of the Arctic Institute, travels frequently with colleagues and students to Antarctica and Greenland to study how rapid environmental change is affecting Arctic ecosystems.

Alumni Support for Energy Education

Dartmouth graduates are actively involved in education at their alma mater. After launching their own careers, many mentor current students, and return to campus to share their expertise in classrooms and public forums.

Dartmouth, Thayer, and Tuck alumni include major figures in the field of energy, such as:

  • Jeffrey Immelt ’78, CEO of General Electric
  • M. Elyse Allan ’79 Tuck ’84, president and CEO of GE Canada, recently named Canadian Energy Person of the Year.
  • Trevor Rees-Jones ’73, president and CEO of Chief Oil & Gas, and Charlie Nearburg ’71, founder of Nearburg Exploration, who work in the Texas gas and petroleum industries
  • Senators Rob Portman ’78 and Angus King ’68, who have served on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Stephen McKenna ’91, an investment banker
  • Dorothy Capra Tuck ’88, director of regulatory services, New England States Committee on Electricity
  • Hank Paulson ’68, conservationist and former secretary of the treasury
  • Catherine Zoi, Thayer ’85, consulting professor at Stanford, University and former assistant secretary of energy

The institute will draw from a large pool of alumni as well as nationally and internationally recognized experts in the field to create a vibrant year-round program of conferences, panels, lectures, and public discussions.