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Students present energy research

Emma Driscoll | Thursday, October 2, 2008

Undergraduate students presented their green energy research projects at the Symposium of Undergraduate Research in Green Energy (SURGE) Wednesday night in the Hesburgh Center.

Thirteen students presented on topics such as energy efficiency, solar power sustainable design and other green energy topics.

“Back in late summer we sent out a call for projects,” GreeND member Alice Griesemer said. “It went a couple times to all the student listservs, and we also targeted specific people in majors that we knew were doing projects just from word of mouth…. We had kind of an application process but we didn’t turn anyone away either.”

Students had already been working on these research projects, and SURGE gave them the opportunity to share their research.

“All of this [research] was already going on…. We were just going to see the response we were going to get,” Griesemer said. “We weren’t sure we were going to have the event. There was such a large response, so we could have it and that was great.”

Griesemer said that over half of the student presenters worked with Notre Dame professors on their research projects.

Dr. Edward Maginn of the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering kicked off the symposium with an introductory speech telling the “small but dedicated” group of students in the audience that their research could have a great impact on the world.

“What I like to tell people is that if you really want to save the world, be an engineer or a scientist,” Maginn said.

Maginn said that some of the current key research areas for the Department of Energy are catalysis – the chemical transformation of matter, electrical storage of energy – nuclear power, utilizing energy from the sun, smart or reliable grids and theory and computations.

Maginn said that students’ research would help solve energy problems.

“You guys here are the ones who are going to solve this problem…,” Maginn said. “That’s where your research comes in.”

Maginn discussed President Richard Nixon’s promise to end the United States’ dependence on foreign sources of energy by 1980.

Maginn said that despite Nixon’s promise then, “[the United States] is more dependent now than ever before.”

Maginn also compared two speeches made by President Jimmy Carter’s speech in 1979. In the first speech, Carter said the energy shortage was permanent but that society could find ways to “adjust” and become more efficient.

In his later speech, Carter said “the energy crisis is real…. These are facts and we simply must face them” and announced import quotas for foreign oil.

“It was shocking to watch this video…. The frustration is very apparent on President Carter’s face,” Maginn said.

The idea for SURGE started with a committee of students that met last May to find ways to further integrate the ideas discussed in the Notre Dame Forum into students’ lives.

“[The committee was] made to promote the forum and we were looking for ways to crystallize the ideas of the forum and help students take action basically,” Griesemer said.