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College Students Pursuing Renewable Energy Careers

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 30, 2009

Colleges and universities are seeing increased interest among undergraduates in studying energy sources that don't contribute to global pollution.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the interest in renewable energy is too new to be reflected in the latest enrollment figures. Nevertheless, college officials at Arizona State University, Indiana University and the University of Colorado note that energy and sustainability are hot topics for students, and more are studying engineering and science as a result.

"In the past, very talented kids would go into business school, to Wall Street, get big bonuses," said Yannis C. Yortsos, the engineering dean at USC, who was quoted in the LA Times. "That may not be the case for a while. They may go into engineering instead."

Yortsos has seen a rise in student interest in renewable energy research, which he said is driven by a "social awareness" of sustainability issues and climate change.

Loni Iverson, a mechanical engineering senior at USC who is assisting a professor's research into fuel cells that run on bacteria, agrees. She noted that she decided to pursue engineering because of the potential of alternative energy.

"In high school," she said, "I kept hearing about America's dependence on foreign oil and the war in Iraq and gas prices rising."

In California, The Fresno Bee reports that area colleges are offering various courses in solar energy. The University of California will kick off a solar energy program this summer, Fresno City College will be training students how to install solar panels on roofs and at California State University in Fresno, two professors are developing a new course on renewable energy.

"We believe there will be a new generation of green industry and technology here in the Valley and in the state, and solar will play a large role in the growth of that industry," noted Diana Wu, dean of UC Berkeley Extension.

Reuters reports that laid-off workers are also looking towards clean energy careers. Robert Kups, who was laid off from the auto industry in Detroit, will be taking a course this fall at Kalamazoo Valley Community College on installing and maintaining wind turbines.

"Renewable energy-everything from wind, to geothermal, solar and tides-is going to be a big factor in our energy use over the next generations," Kups said. "And I want to get in on the ground floor."

President Barack Obama has made efforts to promote developing alternative energy, which he hopes will create millions of U.S. jobs. He has pledged to double renewable energy production in three years and wants 10 percent of electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2012.

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