Students pursuing a master’s degree in Wright State University’s new renewable and clean energy program are, well, energetic.
“I’m jumping in with both feet. I want to do this,” said James Menart, Ph.D., who teaches courses in the program. “But they’ve got more passion than I have, some of these students.”
Menart said that passion is fueled not only by promising job opportunities, but by fear of the nation remaining as foreign-oil-dependent as it is.
“We’ve got to do something different,” said Menart, professor of mechanical and materials engineering. “We need programs that put out bright students who have bright ideas that bring the costs of these renewables down so they can compete with oil and we can get off that import roller-coaster.”
The program was started in January 2009 by Wright State and is the first to offer a renewable/alternative/sustainability engineering masters degree in Ohio. The courses are taught by about a dozen teachers from Wright State, the University of Dayton, Central State University, and the Air Force Institute of Technology.
The program offers 19 different classes, including solar engineering, wind power, hydropower development, vehicle engineering, energy efficient buildings, and nuclear reactor theory and engineering.
“It’s probably the best offering of classes of any kind of sustainability/renewable energy/alternative energy master’s degree program that there is in the country,” Menart said.
About a dozen students are currently enrolled. Menart expects that number to double by the time the program hits its third birthday.
Students must have a science or engineering undergraduate degree because there is a heavy emphasis on physics, math, and engineering.
“We do get into economics somewhat,” Menart said. “And we talk about environmental issues that are associated with energy.”
Menart said students armed with this degree should be able to find jobs with solar or wind companies, utilities, or even with the many companies trying to become more energy efficient. The students should be in position to make engineer-level salaries, he said.
Even more importantly, Menart said, the students will be the field generals in the nation’s effort to become more energy independent. They will be helping forge the future of their generation.
“They’re seeing they may not have easy opportunities to drive their cars around or to have big SUVs, to have some of the advantages we have,” Menart said. “I think they’re worried about the environment, too. They see that there may be problems in the future they have to deal with.”