Eric Chen '21 TH'22

Hometown: Newton, MA
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering 



Eric Chen
Eric Chen '21 TH'22

Eric Chen came to Dartmouth knowing he was going to pursue a  STEM-related major and by his sophomore year he had decided that engineering was the field for him. "But I didn't know what kind of engineer I wanted to be," he says. A number of co-curricular experiences, however, revealed a passion for energy that helped him scope out the field and start to see where he fit in.


Seeing the Complexity of Energy Systems Firsthand 

During his freshman year, Eric participated in two of the first Sustainability Office and Irving Institute co-sponsored energy immersion trips, one to solar and hydropower sites in Northern New England and the second to the Gulf Coast to learn about how the oil and gas industry shapes and is shaped by the local communities.
"After I went on those trips, I realized I found the energy industry really interesting, " says Eric. His biggest takeaway was a recognition of the complexity and interconnectedness of energy systems. "The trips gave me a good exposure to the bigger ecosystem…there are so many players… While there's definitely a technology side to the renewable energy transition, there's a financial side, a people side… those are just as important as getting the technology right. If you don't have a good understanding of the social, economic, and technological factors, it's not going to succeed."
After the Gulf Coast trip, Eric was excited to learn more about energy. However, he found there wasn't a clear curricular path for him. While there were some high-level energy-focused engineering classes that would be available to him in his senior year, he was eager to dig more into the subject as a sophomore.
Again, beyond-the-classroom opportunities helped him keep his momentum and build his energy knowledge. "I kept getting these emails from the Irving Institute and Revers Center for programs and events so I started going to those . . . the FERC Bootcamp, Energy 101. . .  they offered me continual exposure to different aspects of the energy industry," he remembers.
In fact, one winter 2021 Dartmouth Energy Collaborative talk, which was focused on technology's role in climate-adaptive energy infrastructure, stood out to Eric so much that he wrote down the name of the speaker —Dana Guernsey '06 TH'07, '08 — and her company, Voltus, a clean energy and technology company. When he launched his job search last fall, Eric decided to reach out to Dana, and ultimately he landed a position as an energy markets analyst with Voltus!

Connecting With the Institute

Eric finished up his coursework for his bachelor of engineering (BE) degree in winter 2022 and hoped to use his last term at Dartmouth to pursue a research project with the Irving Institute. While he had experience with the Institute through the immersion trips and other programs, he decided he wanted to do something more personalized. So, he reached out and sent an email to the Institute directors sharing his background and interests, and set up a research project for the spring term.
Eric was able to work closely with Institute Senior Advisor Stephen Doig on the initial preparation of the Irving Institute Distributed Energy Lab, located on the Institute building's third floor. Eric was charged with designing an off-grid solar system for the lab, starting with market research and ultimately proposing a potential design and cost analysis. Such a system, once built, could help power the lab and give students hands-on exposure to state-of-the-art microgrids.

Engagement and Intiative Are Key

When asked what advice he has for incoming Dartmouth students, Eric doesn't hesitate: "Be proactive and show up!" For Eric, getting the most out of your time at Dartmouth requires you to be engaged and take initiative. "Take notes, reach out to speakers that you thought were cool… show up to things and be proactive and you'll find something to do."