Thursday, April 2, 2009

Surge of college students pursuing 'clean energy' careers

Climate change is a concern among undergraduates, driving a surge of interest in science and engineering on campuses nationwide.

By Jim Tankersley

Reporting from Washington -- In what could be an encouraging sign of change in the long-standing shortage of Americans preparing for "clean energy" careers, the subject is suddenly hot on college campuses across the nation -- a surge of interest largely stimulated by the specter of global warming.

Concern about climate change is galvanizing more undergraduate students to turn toward a subject involving science and engineering, some educators suggest, in much the same way that Moscow's launching of the Sputnik space satellite jolted baby boomers to turn their eyes to the stars.

What remains uncertain is whether their enthusiasm for renewable energy will carry over into graduate school and lead them to swell the ranks of Americans with advanced science and engineering degrees.

"We have a shortfall of people to do cutting-edge research and do the innovations we need," said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of the engineering school at UCLA. But, he added, "the potential is there."

The rising interest in renewable energy is so new that it's not clearly reflected in the latest enrollment figures, educators say. But leaders from a range of schools -- including Arizona State University, Indiana University and the University of Colorado -- say energy and sustainability are the hottest topic for their students. …

Surge of college students pursuing 'clean energy' careers

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