The importance of the program for UH Hilo students is that regardless of degree area, graduates will have improved opportunities to enter employment in the energy sector.
The University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s Curriculum Review Committee has just approved a new Energy Science Certificate Program developed by Professor of Physics Philippe Binder.
Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM), has been working with Binder on the development of the certificate program.
“The importance (of the certificate) for this generation is that regardless of their degree area our students will have improved opportunities to enter employment in the energy sector and in particular renewable energy,” says Mathews. “It will allow employers in the local energy sector to better consider our graduates as viable candidates.”
Initial financing for the certificate program comes from UH Hilo and the County of Hawai‘i Department of Research and Development. The county funds are helping with curriculum development, hands-on service project design, and intercollegiate collaboration. Binder says the Hawai‘i County Council has acknowledged the importance of energy science by granting the program start-up funding.
The 15-credit certificate has two concentrations. One is intended for students in the natural sciences or CAFNRM programs and can lead to potential careers in technical areas. The second is geared toward policy and management, which is suitable for students of any major, but especially those pursuing business and social science degrees.
Pre-certificate courses such as physics and chemistry are currently available at UH Hilo, and core courses are being offered in sustainable bioenergy production and biochemical energy conversion, the latter being taught by Professor Shihwu Sung of CAFNRM. Sung is globally renowned for his expertise in environmental engineering.
Beginning in summer and fall this year, certificate offerings will include several core engineering and energy science classes that will count toward the certificate.
Mathews says that summer courses will be offered on energy and the environment and on advancing renewable energy, the latter of which will be taught by Paul Hirt, a visiting scholar from Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Fall courses will include the topics of energy, economics and the environment, alternative energies and perhaps more.
There also is interest in expanding the certificate into a four-year degree should the program be successful. Binder says the idea would be to add subject matter such as electronics, fluid mechanics, and other materials that would make graduates more flexible. He feels that Hawai‘i is a great place for alternative energy and its development and believes that it is a necessity in the move to become self sufficient.
“We need to think about energy that we can grow or collect here rather than fossil fuels that have to come from outside,” explains Binder, “both because of the opportunities provided by sun, wind, water and all of the things that can be grown… and because I think there is already an effort going on.”