Students visit the rising city of Masdar as part of Terrascope.

Students visit the rising sustainable city of Masdar.

Spring break means exploring the exotic reaches of Abu Dhabi for students in MIT’s Terrascope Program, the academic program that tackles a fresh global problem each year. You can be there too by reading the student blogs this week, with posts that share visits to a resplendent mosque and walking magnificent sand dunes and, in later days, digging into the science and technology that underpin the experimental city of Masdar and the Masdar Institute, the world’s first graduate institution devoted to renewable energy and sustainability.

These students, all freshmen, are engaged in Terrascope’s Mission 2013, focusing on capture and storage of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere.

One student wrote: “Highlights from yesterday were seeing the technologies that we’ve been researching so extensively actually being implemented. We saw a 10 megawatt field of photovoltaic solar panels (5MW of thin-film and 5MW of crystalline cells) and the magnitude of such a proposition became clear. Row after row of sun-speckled panels lined the desert floor like engineered vegetation. The technology made the area flourish….”

Visit the Mission 2013 Web site for more information on the technologies involved in Masdar city. You can learn more about the development of the Masdar Institute, which is modeled on MIT and began offering classes last fall.


Hey West Coasters! If you’re interested in renewable energy or the energy industry in general, consider attending the View from the Top event on March 16th, themed “Renewable Energy: Paper Tiger or Green Giant?” The event will take place at the Sheraton Palo Alto, 625 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California. Register here.

The evening will begin with drinks and hors d’œuvres, and then move into the main program (details below). There will be plenty of time for questions from the audience and dialogue with the panel. And, happily, the event will conclude with socializing and a dessert reception.


Thomas G. Burns ’62, Director of Strategic Planning, Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc.
Barry Cinnamon 80, Chief Executive Officer, Akeena Solar
Ray Rothrock SM 78, Managing General Partner, Venrock Associates


Douglas Spreng 65


Harbo Jensen PhD 74, Vice President, Chevron Global Tech Svcs

For more information about registration, cost, and the cancellation policy, visit the event’s Web page. (Or navigate to:

The event is also posted on Facbeook. Visit the event page to see who also has RSVP’d.


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MIT is a powerhouse when it comes to problem solving. Some of the world’s most talented scientists engineers study and work at the Institute, and breakthroughs across different disciplines are often a part of daily life.

However some problems, particularly in the energy sector, transcend the scope of a single discipline and require a systems-wide approach. A new video by AMPS and the Alumni Association focuses on that multidisciplinary strategy, showing how innovation in energy technology has to be combined with innovation in business models and policies in order to create and promote a sustainable energy system.

View the seven minute Energy Innovation video above or watch it on TechTV.

As many of you probably know, one of the premier energy events in the entire country happens to be MIT’s own Energy Conference. This year, it will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston and fall on March 5th and 6th—only a few weeks away.

For alumni who have never been, the event offers an unparalleled opportunity to network with colleagues interested in energy and learn from some of the  leaders in the fields of technology, policy, industry, and finance.

Conference tickets are available but selling quickly.  Purchased them online at

More info:

Ticketed Events:

Keynote speakers

This year’s  lineup includes John W. Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation; Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency; Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and Susan Hockfield, current MIT President.

Panel Discussions

The topics for this year’s Saturday Conference panels are a balanced mix of energy technology, policy and business:

  • Commercialization of Solar Energy: Utility Scale or Distributed Generation?
  • Supply Chain Energy Use: Exposing Opportunities for Innovation in a Global Economy
  • Blue Boundaries: The Critical Role of Water Constraints in Energy Generation
  • China: The Cradle of New Energy Technology?
  • Unconventional Natural Gas
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Finding and Sealing Fissures in the Energy Investment Pipeline

Free Events:

Friday Workshop@MIT

Engage in meaningful and thought-provoking discussions with experts at the Friday Workshops.  Free and open to the public, workshops will host deeper discussions on these select subjects:

  • How can we encourage low-energy residential buildings?
  • The environmental impact of personal transport – from design to destruction.
  • Finance prospects in clean energy: Is clean energy the next investment bubble?
  • Commercializing Solar: What Works?

Energy Showcase@Sheraton

The Energy Showcase is designed to bring together cutting-edge energy research and inventive businesses that are contributing critical knowledge, products and services toward actionable and scalable energy solutions. It also provides a wonderful opportunity for people interested in energy to inform themselves about the state of the art and the directions that the industry will follow in the future. Highlights include cutting-edge hardware prototypes, demonstrations, and poster presentations, providing attendees with a unique opportunity to mingle with important players in the energy sector.

MIT Global Startup Workshop

Register today for the MIT Global Startup Workshop.

Considering innovative start-up ideas? Looking to expand your entrepreneurial network on a global scale? Attend the MIT Global Startup Workshop, the world’s premier learning and networking opportunity for entrepreneurs. This year’s workshop will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, March 24–26, to the theme of Conquering the Economic Crisis with Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Green Energy. Its focus will be to interactively explore how to harness the powers of entrepreneurship and green-energy technologies to recover from the current economic crisis and create long-term sustainability. Iceland, a world leader in the emerging field of green energy, is the only country generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The student-run three-day conference is geared to up-and-coming and established entrepreneurial leaders, financiers, professors, students, government agents, and private parties looking to stimulate discussion, generate ideas, and share best entrepreneurial practices. It features inspirational talks, expert panel discussions, interactive case studies, breakout sessions, an elevator pitch competition, a business plan competition workshop, and plenty of opportunities for facilitated networking with participants from more than 60 nations. You’ll leave with a global support network for all stages of entrepreneurial activity.

“Three power-packed days—fun, eye-opening, inspirational.”
—GSW attendee

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers include:

  • Alf Bjørseth (founder of Renewable Energy Corporation)
  • Robin Chase SM ’86 (founder of Zipcar and GoLoco)
  • Nader F. Darehshori (former CEO of Houghton Mifflin)
  • Kenneth P. Morse (founder of 3Com and five other companies).

Join this unique community, experience the dynamic forum, and help build the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Register today.

This year’s climate talks in Copenhagen are exciting for a number of reasons; chief among them is the fact that, after years of turning a blind eye, the United States is now actively participating! Another point of interest is MIT’s engagement in the talks.

Alumni engagement:

Tom Fiddaman PhD ’97, Travis Franck SM ’05, PhD ’09, Andrew Jones SM ’97 and Beth Sawin PhD ’96 are providing a “climate scoreboard” that uses the C-ROADS  simulation to calculate the long-term climate impacts of proposals under consideration. Watch the video below for background and explanation of its features.

Student engagement:

Aaron Thom and Katherine Potter, leaders of student group Sustainability@MIT, have been live-blogging from the conference daily. Read some of their posts:

60-100,000 March Through Copenhagen in Support of Action Against Climate Change

Access Denied: UN begins restricting entrance to COP15, Delays among negotiations

Bright Green Conference: Steven Chu and Rajendra Pachauri

Closing the Climategate

Faculty engagement:

Ian Waitz, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and James Hileman, a principal research engineer in the department, spoke about the “Greening of U.S. Aviation” on December 8th. View the presentation notes (PDF).

Carlo Ratti, associate professor of the practice and head of the MIT SENSEable City lab in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, presented the “Copenhagen Wheel,” a project that aims to transform bicycle use in Denmark’s largest city by promoting urban sustainability and building new connections between the city’s cyclists. View a short video about the project:

greenlogoProfessor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

The day was full of the accoutrements of a Presidential visit—cameras, barricades, fresh paint, devotees, police, people on the rooftops with binoculars and guns, and somber-looking men whose darting eyes constantly scanned the crowd.

It was a good-feeling type of day because President Obama knows something about motivation. He said he values us, he values our work, and he knows our work makes a difference. Speaking of MIT in particular, and saluting entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, and engineers in general, he also said, “The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy.” It’s nice, and refreshing, to know that the President of the United States knows that.

It all took me back to another speech, Susan Hockfield’s inaugural address, four years ago. She identified the two major interdisciplinary themes she would promote as President of MIT: engineering + biology + brain and cognitive science was one; energy and the environment was the other. Out of the energy and the environment theme emerged MIT’s Energy Initiative, aka MITEI, and that is what drew the other President to use MIT as the venue for his call-to-arms speech.

Now more often that not here at MIT, I stand with the loyal opposition on matters of policy, and sometimes I get quite cranky about what I take to be a shift toward a more corporate look and feel. But when our current President is a past president, and people ask what she accomplished, if the answer is that she started the MIT Energy Initiative, which saved the planet, not to mention the economy, then I think she will have left behind a pretty good legacy.

It’s the nature of big jobs. The superposition principle does not apply. You don’t sum up all the things people do, you honor the best thing or condemn the worst thing. In this case, the best thing has big potential.

In President Barack Obama’s address on American leadership in clean energy Oct. 23 at MIT, he challenged the nation to lead the world in developing and capitalizing on renewable energy. You can watch it and add your comments here on Slice.

“Energy supplies are growing scarcer and energy demands are grown larger and rising energy use imperils  the planet,” Obama told the MIT audience. “The world is engaged in peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century….The nation that wins this competition will lead the global economy—and I want America to be that nation.”

President Barack Obama; flickr, via creative commons

President Barack Obama; flickr, via creative commons

Naturally the campus was in a flurry—with secret service and parking chaos and a tremendous excitement about the presidential visit. However, this not the first time Obama has recognized MIT’s energy leadership. President Susan Hockfield stood alongside the President at a March press conference in DC where he announced stimulus bill funding for new energy technology and energy efficiency of $39 billion overall, including $6.5 billion for R&D.

MIT, of course, is a hotbed of energy research these days. Research and education focused through the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) is revolutionizing the generation, storage, and use of energy, from technologies that turn windows into highly efficient, cost-effective solar cells to quantum dot light bulbs with five times the efficiency of incandescent ones. MIT is also framing the national energy debate with seminal reports to Congress on the future of coal, geothermal, and nuclear power, as well as cap-and-trade policy. And the MIT Energy Conference – launched and run by the 1,700 members of our student-led Energy Club – ranks as one of the nation’s premier energy events.

View a slideshow of images shot on campus during the morning of Obama’s talk:

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