Six Decades of Energy and Sustainability Educational and Research Activities at IIT Lead to the Formation of WISER
IIT’s foray into the energy arena can be traced to the 1940s, when IIT first developed a formal affiliation with the Institute of Gas Technology (IGT), establishing the gas engineering graduate program and launching energy-related research between the two entities.
This arrangement continued until 1985, when IGT phased out its gas engineering program and, at the same time, the Gas Research Institute, under the direction of Henry Linden, provided funding to the IIT Department of Chemical Engineering to attract new faculty to energy related areas. Hamid Arastoopour was the faculty member hired by IIT to establish the Energy Technology education and research program. As part of this program, a specialization (minor) in energy technology at the undergraduate level and an energy research program focus were launched.
An industrial membership program also was established to attract funding to support student scholarships at the undergraduate and Ph.D. levels. In addition, funds were raised to establish the Max McGraw Endowed Professorship in Energy and Power Engineering and Management, occupied by Linden.
During the 1990s, the scope of the Energy Technology Program was broadened and renamed the Energy, Environment and Economics (E3) program. During this time, educational specializations in E3 at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and a Master of Environmental Management degree (a collaborative program between IIT Stuart School of Business and the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering) were launched.
In addition, funds were raised for two endowed chair professorships—the Linden Chair and the Max McGraw Chair in Energy, Environment and Economics.
Several clusters of excellence in research—including the Energy + Power Center, the Electric Power and Power Electronics Center, the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering, and the environmental engineering research focus—were also established.
In response to urgent national need, in 2004 IIT took a leadership role in establishing the Energy and Sustainability Institute (ESI), building on the university’s reputation for more than six decades as a leader in energy research and education. ESI activities were significantly expanded beyond engineering and science to include strong participation with IIT College of Architecture and IIT Stuart School of Business as well as involvement by faculty from law, design and psychology.
In 2008, IIT benefactor and trustee Ralph Wanger provided funding to further enhance the scope of energy and sustainability research activities at IIT, formerly under the auspices of ESI, under the renamed Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research (WISER). Later on, the funding was enhanced by the establishment of an endowed chair professorship by the Rowe Family and the Galvin Family endowment to establish the Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation within WISER.
These funds will continue to provide needed infrastructure support, seed-research grants for faculty, and the additional support needed to attract the brightest and most creative faculty and Ph.D. students to WISER and IIT. These funds will also allow IIT to continue to assume a leadership position as we face significant future challenges to the security of our national energy supply and the sustainability of our natural resources.