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WISER Strategic Plan: AY 2014-2019


Chairman of the Board

Ralph Wanger


Hamid Arastoopour

Associate Director (and Director of Galvin Center for electricity innovation)

Mohammad Shahidehpour

Assistant Director

Margaret Murphy

Board Members

Dr. Rakesh Agrawal, Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor, Purdue University

Ms. Amy Francetic, Senior Vice President, New Ventures and Corporate Affairs, Invenergy LLC

Mr. Marvin Gottlieb, Vice Chair, Advisory Board, Assn. for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – U.S.A.

Mr. William E. Liss, Managing Director, Energy Delivery and Utilization, Gas Technology Institute*

Mr. Charles T. Maxwell, Chairman, American DG Energy Inc.

Mr. Paul D. McCoy, P.E., President, McCoy Energy LLC

Dr. Catherine A. O’Connor, Director of Engineering, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Dr. Robert Rosner, Wrather Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics, The University of Chicago

Mr. John W. Rowe, Chairman Emeritus, Exelon Corporation

Mr. Michael M. Rumman, Principal, Emso Equities, LLC

Dr. Alfred P. Sattelberger, Associate Lab. Director for Energy Engineering and Systems Analysis, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Alan Schriesheim, Director Emeritus, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Donnan Steele, Managing Partner, Phoenician Resources

Mr. Tim Stojka, Founder and CEO, Agentis Energy*

Mr. Ralph Wanger (Chair), Chairman, RW Investments

*New members who joined the Advisory Board subsequent to the drafting and development of the WISER AY 2014-2019 Strategic Plan.


The vision of WISER is a world with energy security, sufficient and affordable sources of clean energy and water, and a sustainable climate to ensure quality of life, social and economic well-being, and the preservation of natural resources and the environment for future generations.


The mission of WISER is to: become a major part of IIT academic activities by creating a culture of excellence and innovation and developing state-of-the-art research and education programs; improve IIT’s visibility and reputation; support IIT’s Strategic Plan and six major priorities; and attract top faculty, students, major interdisciplinary grants, and philanthropic funds to IIT.


  • Develop state-of-the-art education and research programs in specifically focused areas of energy and sustainability; continue to attract research and educational grants and contracts; work closely with the deans and provost to continue to attract top faculty; and work with Institutional Advancement to attract philanthropic funds to establish WISER graduate scholarships.
  • Launch several initiatives that will expand the interdisciplinary perspective of the research and education program in the energy and sustainability area; set a new high standard for excellence in energy and sustainability education and research at IIT; and develop research programs in partnership with global and local industry, national and research laboratories, and domestic and international universities.

    While IIT is continuing its commitment to provide students with fundamental knowledge within the core disciplines, the curricula will be broadened by introducing interdisciplinary education in energy and sustainability, with a continuing focus on interdisciplinary large-scale innovative research at the graduate level and student participation in research, and interprofessional and entrepreneurial team projects at the undergraduate level. We want to attract more women and minority students and faculty by creating a more welcoming and diverse community within WISER.  We also plan to increase our outreach programs and work closely with the communities around us. Our plan also demands significant research and educational partnerships with universities inside and outside the United States, industry, and government and research laboratories, and collaboration with local communities, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois. We have identified several education and collaborative research areas of high priority for WISER and are focusing our effort to attract significant funding and to secure needed resources to assume a national leadership role in these areas. At present, these areas include: microgrid, clean coal technology and carbon capture, wind energy, sustainable built environment, energy storage, natural gas production and storage, use of algae as biofuel, and energy and sustainability education.


National security, and economic vitality and growth depend upon adequate future supplies of energy and water. As global reserves of non-renewable, conventional energy resources are becoming available at continuously rising prices, concern at all government levels is increasing daily. In the national interest, it is essential that university initiatives in technology and research join with industry and national and research laboratories to focus on the sustainability of the energy supply and related areas. Sustainable energy supply uses inexhaustible least-cost sources of heating, cooling, lighting, transportation energy, power, etc., that do not cause dissipative harmful material flows into the environment. New initiatives need to be launched and funding provided for expanded initiatives where appropriate.

The energy and sustainability challenge is multi-faceted. It therefore calls for a comprehensive strategy with action on several fronts in identifiable fields linked to entities and individuals with demonstrated capability and potential in both achievements and ideas. WISER is particularly well positioned to significantly contribute to national energy and sustainability research and education with highly qualified and nationally recognized faculty in a range of areas related to energy and sustainability. Furthermore, WISER is in a very strong position to mobilize its intellectual, research, and professional resources to attract to IIT top graduate and undergraduate students, and key national faculty and research leaders in energy and sustainability.

Achievements during first Strategic Plan (2009-2014)

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 was also 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, then occupied by Dr. 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 an endowed chair professorship, namely, the Linden Chair, occupied by Dr. Arastoopour. 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 Stuart School of Business, as well as involvement of faculty from law, design, and psychology.

In 2007, IIT benefactor and trustee Ralph Wanger provided funding to further enhance the scope of energy and sustainability research activities at IIT, formerly conducted under the auspices of ESI, under the renamed Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research (WISER). This funding provides needed infrastructure support as well as seed research grants for faculty and initial graduate scholarships to attract the brightest and most creative Ph.D. students to WISER. This funding has also allowed IIT to assume a leadership position as our nation faces significant future challenges to the security of our energy and water supplies and the sustainability of our natural resources. WISER is positioned to make key contributions to the advancement of national and global energy and sustainability education, research, development, and economic and policy issues.

During the last strategic plan, WISER met and exceeded its goals in all categories, six months prior to the end of the plan, including surpassing the $50 million research funding target by WISER faculty. During the last five years, WISER attracted more than 60 faculty members from different colleges to get involved in WISER activities and also attracted three new chair professors in the energy and sustainability related areas. Currently, there are five chair professorships at IIT in energy and sustainability related areas. They include the: Carl and Paul Bodine Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Grainger Chair in Electrical and Power Engineering, Henry R. Linden Endowed Chair in Engineering, Rowe Family Endowed Chair in Sustainable Energy, and Max McGraw Endowed Chair in Energy and Power Engineering and Management. WISER also provided 15 Interdisciplinary Seed Funding Grants (ISFG) to faculty. This ensured that WISER will continuously have large interdisciplinary research proposals in the pipeline. WISER launched a significant number of outreach and collaborative programs with other universities, communities, industry, and research laboratories. WISER administration also worked with IIT architects to complete the renovation of the 16th floor of the IIT Tower and successfully moved all WISER activities to this location as of January 2012. This state-of-the-art facility was designed specifically to house the WISER operation and the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation and its Smart Grid Workforce Education and Training Program.

WISER also worked closely with the Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability and different student organizations involved in areas related to sustainable energy and sustainability to make IIT one of them most sustainable urban campuses in the nation with projects including smart grid and the establishment of a renewable energy system that includes an 8 KW wind turbine, four sets of rooftop solar panels, three battery storage systems, and nine electric car charging stations. In addition, projects in recycling, composting, urban farming, and water management were also established in collaboration with the Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability and student organizations.

In summary, WISER was able to position itself as one of the distinguished and leading research institutes at the national level in the area of energy and sustainability.

WISER Approach

The WISER approach to sustainability implements a least-cost strategy to establish innovative and advanced programs to: enhance energy efficiency through energy conservation and connectivity programs; launch water and material accountability and recycling initiatives; enhance power reliability and security; develop clean coal technologies for power generation with carbon dioxide capture and sequestration; apply renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and wind in the design of buildings and residences; pursue effective energy storage and conversion technologies; and explore the possibilities of transitional energy development such as methane and biomass. Our long-term approach includes reducing the dependence of the global energy system on carbon by using renewable sources such as photovoltaic, solar, geothermal, and wind energy.

WISER is well on the way to establishing a national and international reputation for the University in the energy and sustainability area that is of global interest—representing one of the major issues that the world is facing today and will continue to face in the future. To date, WISER has launched a number of collaborative educational and research programs including smart grid and perfect electricity, wind energy, clean coal technology and carbon capture, plug-in hybrid, sustainable built environment, energy storage, and a significant number of Interprofessional Projects (IPROs) in energy and sustainability related areas.

At present, more than 60 faculty members are involved in WISER activities from the different colleges at IIT.

Education and Outreach Programs (Strategic Plan AY 2014-2019)

WISER’s goal is to play a key role in educating future leaders in energy and sustainability by working closely with all colleges at IIT on the development of state-of-the-art curricula and research and the growth of the student body. Students incorporating the sustainability program as a part of their studies will represent a new breed of professionals who possess not only a strong knowledge of fundamentals, but also the innovative thinking and knowledge required for a broad understanding of societal, economic, legal, and environmental issues that determine intellectual choices. Graduation of students with such broad knowledge and innovative thinking capability will further elevate IIT’s visibility and reputation, and will significantly contribute to IIT’s Strategic Priority Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 6, related to growing the student body, promoting innovative thinking and excellence throughout the university, elevating IIT’s visibility and rankings, and strengthening IIT’s academic programs.

The following is the specific WISER educational action plan:

  • WISER is planning to work with IIT’s different colleges to develop a Master of Energy and Sustainability degree as part of the co-terminal degree programs at IIT. This interdisciplinary program is expected to contribute to the strength of the academic programs of the participating colleges.
  • WISER, in collaboration with the Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability, will continue to develop student activities and involvement in campus sustainability and to use the IIT campus as a “living energy and sustainability laboratory” for students.
  • WISER will put additional effort into helping students to improve their knowledge of energy and sustainability related issues, and, in turn, improve the quality and number of students absorbed upon graduation by the job market. This may be done through offering additional projects at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in energy and sustainability areas and arranging additional seminars presented by leading researchers in the field.
  • WISER plans to continue to support the IIT Formula Hybrid and Electric Car student team, or other energy related student teams, to build the WISER formula hybrid and/or electric car and participate in national and international competitions.
  • WISER will continue to encourage and support a significant number of undergraduate research projects and IPROs each semester in areas related to energy and sustainability. Our goal is that roughly ¼ of all IPROs offered each year should be related to energy and sustainability.
  • WISER is planning to continue its seminar series conducted in collaboration with academic units at IIT and other organizations outside of IIT.
  • In collaboration with the Stuart School of Business and the Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, WISER plans to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among students and faculty and assist them to develop and commercialize their innovative sustainable energy technologies.
  • WISER will provide needed support to colleges across the university offering programs in energy and sustainability at the Main, Downtown, and Rice Campus locations.
  • WISER will continue activities in support of the Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy in collaboration with UIC, UIUC, Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, and Clean Energy Trust.
  • WISER, through its Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, plans to continue to offer the annual Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy.

Research Program

WISER is gradually becoming one of the leading academic institutions in the nation in addressing the research issues of energy and sustainability including: microgrid; climate change; energy/water/food nexus; renewable energy and energy storage, security, reliability and efficiency; and sustainable development. The opportunity leverages our recognition in energy, power, and environmentally related research, the original formulation of the Energy/Environment/Economics paradigm, and the current and emerging strengths across several academic disciplines. A primary goal of WISER and its Galvin Center involves the development of cross-disciplinary research, via our affiliated research centers and core research competency areas, to attract more large-scale research projects to IIT and produce top-quality publications and, in turn, enhance IIT’s reputation in energy and sustainability related areas. Our plan includes integrating research from different disciplines at IIT, and from our collaborators at other universities, government laboratories, and research organizations, and in business and industry. Our plan also includes identification of new research priority areas for WISER in which we should stake out a stronger leadership position and earmark additional resources.

Our five-year goal for research funding is $60 million, 20% higher than the previous five-year plan. In spite of the fact that attracting funding is becoming more challenging, we still expect to obtain more funding because of the new faculty hires in energy-related areas and the WISER reputation.

We have identified seven main research areas of high priority: microgrid; sustainable built environment; clean coal technology and carbon capture and sequestration; wind energy; energy storage and conversion; natural gas production; and biofuel from algae. Our objective will also include continuation of our Interdisciplinary Seed Funding Grants (ISFG) program. This will ensure that WISER will continuously have large interdisciplinary proposals in the pipeline. We expect our research activities to contribute significantly to IIT’s Strategic Priority Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, related to growing the student body who are interested in energy and sustainability related research areas, promoting innovative thinking and excellence in sustainable energy areas, elevating IIT’s visibility in energy and sustainability related fields, and developing resources by increasing research value and philanthropic contributions.

The following is the specific WISER research action plan:

  • WISER will continue to assemble interdisciplinary teams and develop new research centers as needed to apply for large interdisciplinary grants and contracts.
  • WISER will continue to explore ways to further enhance support service for WISER faculty to prepare proposals and provide facilities to encourage faculty to write proposals for small business initiative programs.
  • WISER will continue to explore additional collaborative research opportunities and seek more funding from the federal and state government, and industry.
  • WISER, along with the WISER partners and collaborators from other universities, research laboratories and industry, will continue to work on its seven research competency areas, namely: microgrid; sustainable built environment; clean coal technology and carbon capture and sequestration; wind energy; energy storage and conversion; natural gas production and storage; and biofuel from algae. The specific research in the above seven areas will include: coordination between critical infrastructures (electricity, telecommunication, natural gas, and water), cyber security, and enhancement of infrastructure resilience in adverse conditions; synchronization of electrical power; energy harvesting by high-speed trains; natural gas production from low permeability fractured reservoirs and hydrate reserves; power electronic interfacing devices for microgrid with distributed resources, power electronic converters (for wind, photovoltaic, and other renewable systems), electric machines and power electronics for electric and hybrid vehicles, new power electronics technology for improving efficiency of energy consumption; research on vertical turbine and the effects of rain and ice formation on turbine power generation; integration of wind and solar energy in buildings; CO2 capture and sequestration; wind energy; Li-ion batteries, Na-ion batteries, hybrid flow batteries, and solid oxide fuel cells for energy storage and conversion; and biofuel from algae.
  • WISER plans to identify three niche areas and put additional effort and resources (such as more start-up funding, matching funds, and faculty support to visit the funding agencies) to position WISER as an internationally leading institution in these areas. These areas could possibly include: microgrid, natural gas, and energy storage.
  • WISER is planning to seek new research opportunities and, if needed, to build research teams in several areas including: synchronization of power, water/energy/food nexus, water treatment, small hydro power, material recycling, renewable energy, fuel cells and batteries, energy and sustainability issues in the transportation sector, urban energy and sustainability issues, sustainable communities and cities, and energy efficiency and demand response for promoting net-zero communities.
  • WISER is planning to submit proposals to DOD, NSF, DOE, and ARPA-E for the establishment of at least four Centers of Excellence in specific areas of energy and sustainability including: microgrid, materials, urban sustainable farming, and natural gas.
  • WISER will continue to organize more collaborative focus teams in targeted areas of national interest and establish more collaborative educational and research programs with industry, the State of Illinois, Cook County, the City of Chicago, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Gas Technology Institute, and other universities and government laboratories including Argonne National Laboratory, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and University of Illinois.
  • WISER is planning to significantly enhance its partnership with targeted industries to increase its non-government research funding, collaboration (and potential strengthening) on funding proposals and research, and opportunities for internships and employment for students.
  • WISER leadership will identify areas of collaboration with targeted industries where industrial interests are fully aligned with faculty research areas, and plan to sign several MOUs with industry partners.
  • WISER is planning to develop international collaborative educational and research programs with universities and research institutes in different parts of the world.
  • WISER will continue to sponsor the Interdisciplinary Seed Funding Grants (ISFG) program with a focus on its niche areas. This will enable WISER to continuously have large interdisciplinary proposals in the pipeline. The WISER ISFG program was established to cultivate broad-based university research initiatives that demonstrate significant potential to attract major funding.
  • WISER will continue to work closely with the External Affairs and Research Offices at IIT to include a provision for new initiatives that may arise occasionally that takes advantage of the unique attributes of WISER and the resources of the Chicago area and to seek opportunities for funding from city, state, and federal government, particularly DOD.

Administrative Function and Facilities

WISER is an interdisciplinary institute focusing to develop excellence in energy and sustainability research and education, and to bring international recognition to IIT in this area. WISER has an advisory board and a director (who reports administratively to the IIT Provost). WISER interacts with all colleges at IIT directly, or through its affiliated centers, to develop state-of-the-art research and educational programs. WISER also has one associate and one assistant director. In addition, WISER collaborates closely with the Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability and with international initiatives in these areas. WISER and its Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation are located in a state-of-the-art facility on the 16th floor of IIT Tower. This facility has significantly enhanced the visibility and reputation of WISER and its Galvin Center initiatives and contributes to IIT’s Strategic Priority No. 4, related to the enhancement of IIT’s facilities, infrastructure, and environments.

The following figure shows the WISER organizational structure (revised Aug. 1, 2018): Download PDF

The following is the specific WISER administrative action plan:

  • WISER will continue to collaborate in the development of research and educational programs with local, national, and international research and educational organizations.
  • WISER will continue to develop a strong advisory board consisting of leaders of industry, national and research labs, local government, and universities in energy and sustainability areas by adding more advisory board members to enhance our collaborative activities and help WISER to attract more financial resources. In particular, WISER plans to include board members from peer institutions including The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and University of Illinois.
  • WISER will work closely with the deans and provost to attract top faculty to IIT in potential energy and sustainability areas of national interest and growth.
  • WISER will further enhance collaboration in implementing the Campus Sustainability Plan and help to make IIT one of the most sustainable urban campuses in the nation.
  • WISER will establish a WISER Faculty Advisory Team to continuously develop and evaluate WISER academic and research initiatives. This team will include the: WISER director, WISER associate and assistant directors, and all holders of chair professorships in the area of energy and sustainability at IIT who are members of the WISER Faculty Affiliates group. 
  • WISER is planning to increase administrative support for PI proposal preparation to potentially improve the success rate of the proposal. This will include using a grant writer who could directly collaborate with the PI and co-PI in writing a proposal. WISER also plans to increase WISER proactive engagement with prospective funding agencies.

The above-outlined action plan is expected to contribute to IIT’s Strategic Priority No. 3, related to elevating IIT’s visibility and rankings.

Communications, Marketing, and Fundraising

Communications and Marketing

WISER marketing and communications efforts will be closely coordinated with the activities of the University's Office of Marketing and Communications. As such, the branding and messaging of both the WISER Strategic Plan and the University Vision and Strategic Priorities, at large, will be communicated via a unified and coordinated joint strategy. We expect our communications and marketing plan to contribute to IIT’s Strategic Priority No. 3, related to elevating IIT’s visibility.

The following is the specific WISER marketing and communications action plan:

  • WISER will continue to work with the IIT Office of Marketing and Communications to ensure that WISER’s objectives and achievements are broadly communicated to IIT’s numerous external audiences. WISER will also continue to work with all IIT internal academic units and departments to ensure University awareness of WISER and its activities.
  • WISER will continue to coordinate all public interest and private sector inquiries and requests for information, speaker participation, facility tours, and details regarding education, research, and outreach programs.
  • WISER will continue to expand its outreach and marketing initiatives including continued participation in the UIC Summer Institute (and Advisory Board) and development of additional programs with other universities conducting sustainability-related programs at the local, regional, and national levels.
  • WISER plans to enhance its collaboration with the Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Admission on recruitment initiatives in this area.
  • WISER will continue to maintain and expand a user-friendly web site.

WISER will explore the possibility to launch global marketing of our programs, possibly by establishing initiatives with universities outside of the United States.


The following is the specific WISER fundraising plan that is expected to contribute to IIT’s Strategic Priority No. 5, related to further development of University resources:

--WISER will continue to identify WISER campaign priorities and work with the IIT Office of Institutional Advancement to achieve WISER’s goal of establishing an expendable fund to support graduate and undergraduate students, research seed grants, special projects, and a lectureship series in the area of energy and sustainability.

--WISER fundraising plan includes the establishment of graduate scholarships as a means of attracting high caliber Ph.D. students in areas related to energy and sustainability. Our plan is to raise sufficient funding (endowed or expendable) to support three students/year.