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President Pledges Clean Energy Education Opportunities to Inspire the Next Generation of Scientists & Engineers

April 27, 2009

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

During a speech at the National Academy of Sciences on April 27, 2009, President Obama announced a National Science Foundation/Department of Energy collaboration that addresses the need to "spark a sense of wonder and excitement" in the nation's young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.

As part of President Obama's "New Energy for America" plan, the Administration will provide the opportunity for thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy. These young men and women will invent and help commercialize advanced energy technologies such as efficient and cost effective methods for converting sunlight to electricity and fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, stationary and portable advanced batteries for plug-in electric cars, advanced energy storage concepts that will enable sustained energy supply from solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, high-efficiency deployment of power across the so-called "smart grid" and carbon neutral commercial and residential buildings.

The National Science Foundation is joining the Department of Energy and other government agencies to educate students at all levels in fields contributing to fundamental understanding of energy science and engineering systems, while educating the public about energy choices and challenging our educational institutions to develop innovative ways to enhance science and technology instruction and learning. NSF is uniquely poised to spearhead part of this multi-faceted collaboration via its portfolio of programs.

Individual Fellowships to Graduate Students involved in Clean Energy Research: Building upon one of NSF's oldest and most successful programs, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, established in 1952, will provide highly flexible three-year fellowships for American graduate students pursuing the Ph.D. degree in topics related to clean energy research and development. These fellowships provide an annual stipend for room, board, and living expenses with a cost-of-education allowance to the Fellow's institution of choice for partial tuition and fees.

Integrative Graduate Training Programs involving Clean Energy: NSF will invest in new flagship IGERT (Integrative Graduation Education Research Traineeship) projects proposed by universities that work across academic disciplines to provide highly structured training for American graduate students pursuing their Ph.D. These new interdisciplinary programs will consider energy topics from a high-level systems perspective, including science, engineering, design, environmental impact, economics, social aspects of adoption and use, and public policy. Traineeships include internships in industry, government, and international research centers.  This will produce young investigators fully prepared to become leaders in clean energy science and policy, and will also spark new and sustained collaborations between university departments and research centers.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Energy: to provide new REU courses and research opportunities for undergraduate students to learn about clean energy and gain experience in active research projects. Funding would be available for universities, labs, and industry to develop curriculum and Research Experience for Undergraduate sites, with supplements provided to existing research awards to provide stipends for college students to participate directly in a research experience.

Technician Education: to improve education for young Americans who will become technicians in clean energy fields, focusing on two- and four-year college programs. These ATE (Advanced Technological Education) projects will study aspects of technician education, concentrating on curriculum development, teacher and faculty training, partnering relationships with industry and regional alliances, and fostering career pathways from secondary schools into community colleges. This program will also involve students preparing to become teachers focusing on math, science and technical education in primary and secondary schools, and facilitate partnerships between certificate programs and potential employers of energy-focused technicians and instructors.

Focused Research in K-12 Science Education Strategies and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers: will address how students learn about science and technology, evaluating immediate challenges in primary and secondary schools and envisioning science education as it could be in future decades. It will assess what works and why, enable enhanced learning in the K-12 setting on topics relating to clean energy, and consider new and innovative ways to communicate the challenges and promise of clean energy; for example, incorporating currently popular ubiquitous social communication platforms. This will include projects to design and evaluate educational strategies and assess how to scale them up to reach large numbers of students. This will also include innovative technology experiences for students and their teachers that address how to effectively interest and prepare students to participate in the clean energy workforce of the future.

Public Awareness and Action: will engage and inform the public through informal education about how science and technology are addressing the nation's energy challenge and transforming our energy future. A broadly-designed outreach program, highly leveraged through media providers, and using innovative and popular cyberlearning technologies, IMAX©films, television and radio programs, as well as local science museums and youth and community education programs. This project will raise public awareness about our need to meet the clean energy challenge and related environmental mitigation benefits, understand the implications of our energy choices, and adopt clean energy lifestyles. It will also capture young people's interest in "green technology" and inspire them to pursue careers that find solutions to our future energy needs.

Graduate Post Doctorate Education: energy research to educate graduate students and postdocs on frontier energy research that has high transformative potential. These students and postdocs will become the future academic leaders and industrial innovators to advance the creation and adoption of advanced clean energy technologies.

Specialized Energy Centers: small number of new forward-looking engineering and science and technology centers located at America's colleges and universities. These specialized centers will focus the regional and institutional strengths of science and engineering schools around aspects of clean energy research while building partnerships with their state governments, regional industries, and local school districts to infuse expertise into the communities in which they are based. In addition to center-specific projects, Centers will include many aspects of the program elements described above, tailored to their regional or specialty (e.g. solar conversion; materials research; wind engineering) context. These centers will initially build upon existing NSF funded ERCs (Engineering Research Centers) and STCs (Science and Technology Centers) centers devoted to energy research; however, in future budget years, specialized energy centers will be separately designed and solicited.

Education in Complex Interrelationships: to enable education in computationally-enabled modeling of complex interrelationships among energy systems, environmental and economic impacts, and human factors.These group-funded efforts will be facilitated by university high-end computational facilities to foster cyber-enabled learning skills for conducting complex modeling and analyses.


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7750, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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