UT Energy Institute hosts ongoing symposium

Shezaz Hannan

The UT Energy Institute is sparking discussion about topics from rechargeable batteries to nuclear fusion for the thirteenth semester this fall through its Energy Symposium, or UTES.

UTES, which started in 2011, is a weekly lecture series which brings speakers from all over the country to campus to talk about issues including energy technologies, energy consumption and climate policy.

The symposium is part of the education mission of the UT Energy Institute. The institute is an umbrella organization that coordinates and facilitates energy research, education and policy campus-wide, according to Fred Beach, the assistant director for policy studies. The research projects are multidisciplinary projects involving researchers from engineering, business, policy, architecture and many more.

The symposium attracts both students and members of the public interested in energy issues.

“It’s kind of a common gathering place for people on campus who are interested in energy to hear about different issues (and) different technologies that are in the field,” Beach said. “It serves as a nice networking opportunity for students, other faculty and even the general public to meet and interact with some of these people we bring in.”

The speakers and topics featured in the symposium vary from semester to semester. Speakers come from a variety of backgrounds including industry, non-profit organizations and professors from both UT and other institutions around the country. Recent speakers include John Goodenough of the mechanical engineering department; Gene Preston, CEO of Transmission Adequacy Consulting based in Austin; and Dave Nagel, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at George Washington University. Upcoming speakers this semester include representatives from MIT, Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

While there is no theme each semester, topics this semester include nuclear energy, renewable energy, rechargeable batteries and climate policy.

“We want to keep it broad and mixed,” Beach said. “We try to bring in talks about fossil fuel technologies (and) renewable technologies.”

The Energy Symposium is offered as a one credit hour course for undergraduate and graduate students. Despite that, Carey King, assistant director of the Energy Institute, said it is open to the public and students do not need to be enrolled in the class to attend.

Electrical and computer engineering senior Julie Song said she enrolled in the class because she believes it aligns with what she is learning in her major.

“I understand the technical aspects a little better, except I am learning about completely new, different energy systems coming out today,” Song said.

She said she hopes the class will teach her more about things going on around the world today regarding energy.

“The technical things I learn in class, so I’m hoping with the symposium I’ll actually know more about what’s actually going on in the world today,” Song said.

These discussions are not always limited to the symposium.

“Sometimes we do go eat afterwards and continue the conversation,” King said.

Beach and King said they hope to not only educate students and the public on energy issues with the symposium, but also generate conversation. An upcoming speaker will discuss low energy nuclear reactions, formerly known as cold fusion.

“It’s a somewhat controversial topic,” Beach said. “I kind of like controversy, I like things where people don’t agree.”

The UT Energy Symposium takes place weekly on Thursdays from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302. The symposium is offered during the fall and spring semesters.