Boot camp on sustainability, energy powers up for summer

Mentoring session at Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy

Seth Snyder, biofuels technology manager at Argonne National Laboratory, holds a mentoring session for participants in the UIC Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy.


The Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy is revving up for its annual energy and sustainability boot camp Aug. 6 to 18.

Sponsored by the UIC Energy Initiative, the annual workshop challenges participants to think creatively about how the world can power itself in a sustainable way.

“It’s good, it’s grueling, it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” says Michael Blauvelt, co-chair of the SISE Alumni Association board and a 2014 graduate in urban planning. “The best part is, you’re working with people from different backgrounds.”

In its fifth year, the program brings together undergraduates, graduate students, business professionals, professors and post-doctoral scholars to tackle the topic of sustainable energy resources.

“It’s a way to expand your mind and learn things that most of us wouldn’t have learned otherwise,” says George Crabtree, institute founder, director of the Energy Initiative and distinguished professor of physics. “SISE brings together speakers and topics that usually are quite separate.”

The institute begins with a two-day crash course followed by energy-focused lectures, panel discussions, site visits, networking events and collaborative projects.

The 2015 program theme is digital rebirth: how digital technology impacts energy.

“I think the four topics we have this year are really cutting edge, they’re emerging and something that the participants haven’t thought of before,” says Crabtree, director of the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory.


Argonne National Laboratory tour for the Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy

Ann Schlenker, director of the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne, gives a tour for the UIC Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy.

Topics include digital manufacturing, smart cities, transportation and electricity grids. The featured speaker will be Caralynn Nowinski, executive director and chief operating officer of UI Labs, who earned an MD and MBA from UIC in 2007.

The program gives participants the opportunity to create a real-world solution through an intense collaborative project that addresses the scientific, economic, business and policy side of implementation.

“We want to stretch their brains for two weeks — and we keep them busy,” Crabtree says.

Institute partners include Argonne, Clean Energy Trust, and energy policy institutes at the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Loyola universities and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Sponsors are UIC’s Energy Initiative and UI Labs.

The program will feature guest lecturers from Argonne, Microsoft, Accenture, UI Labs, Siemens and Exelon.

“Participants get to network, not only with each other, but with professionals and entrepreneurs,” says Thomas Aláan, Energy Initiative program coordinator. “When they come out of SISE, a lot of them either have a job, a new internship or a new research professor.”

Alumni stay connected through the SISE Alumni Association, which sponors networking events and an annual spring symposium to share their research.

“We develop a feeling of community, of family during the two weeks of SISE,” Crabtree says.

The online application requires two letters of recommendation and a resume. Applications are due July 1.

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