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Energy and Sustainability (Cluster)

The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), administrator of the Energy and Sustainability Cluster, was established in 2008 as the University-wide enterprise to advance global energy and sustainability solutions through transformational research, experiential education, and public engagement.

ISEN Cluster Fellows are exceptional TGS students across a broad spectrum of technical, natural and social science, business and law backgrounds with deep interest in energy and sustainability. These Fellows support ISEN’s mission to promote energy and sustainability research and innovation, education, outreach and communication at Northwestern with local and national partner stakeholders.

Cluster Fellows also support ISEN’s educational mandate as Teaching Assistants, and receive automatic placement into ISEN’s required graduate core course sequence.

As of Fall 2020, ISEN also offers a full-time Master of Science in Energy and Sustainability (MSES), which prepares its students for public and private sector leadership roles in energy and sustainability – fields undergoing rapid technological, economic, and regulatory disruption. Cluster Fellows will further benefit from opportunities to interact with this multidisciplinary cohort.

Programs and events

Cluster activities will be funded and supported through ISEN as described below, and ISEN Cluster Fellows are encouraged to participate in:

  • Educational workshops
  • Topics/Research brownbags, organized by and for ISEN Cluster Fellows and Fellows alumni, to discuss current energy and sustainability news, topics of interest, and/or Fellows research.
  • Northwestern Energy & Sustainability Coalition (NESC) will offer Cluster Fellows the opportunity to enhance communication and collaboration among all NU student groups, undergraduate and graduate, with an interest in energy and sustainability. This group will work with ISEN to maximize its outreach and impact.
  • Three or four conferences/symposia will be held yearly at Northwestern University on various topics connected to energy and sustainability.
  • Distinguished scholars in the field of energy and sustainability will be invited to visit Northwestern University.

Who should apply?

Doctoral candidates from any field are eligible to apply to join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Past participants have come from the following programs:

  • Chemistry
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Finance, Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Health and Science Reporting
  • JD/MBA
  • Magazine Journalism
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • MBA
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Plant Biology and Conservation
  • Science Writing and Reporting

How to apply

Visit the Cluster overview page of the ISEN website for complete details of the program.  Eligible students interested in applying may do so directly on the ISEN website; the application process requires letters of recommendation, a CV, and a sample of scholarly work, among other things.

Who to contact

Please contact Jeff Henderson, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the ISEN website for more information.

  • Jeff Henderson
    ISEN Associate Director
    Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Rd, Ste M486
    Evanston, IL 60208   
    Phone: (847) 467-1972

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

Coursework requirements

A Fellow is required to take two ISEN core courses in the three consecutive quarters of the Fellowship as follows: 

ISEN 410 – Topics in Contemporary Energy & Climate Change (Fall)

Synopsis: The increasing worldwide demand for energy presents a number of complex interdisciplinary challenges, from oil depletion to global warming.  This class will challenge students to answer the question, How shall we power the world in the 21st century?  Students will examine the history and geography of energy use; links between energy and climate change; and technological, economic and environmental benefits and drawbacks of various energy sources.  

ISEN 430 – NUvention: Energy (Winter)

Synopsis: NUvention: Energy is one of an expanding NUvention portfolio of topically focused cross-campus entrepreneurship programs.  Over an intense quarter, graduate students from schools across campus will come together in interdisciplinary teams to develop a product or service and a business in the burgeoning sustainable energy industry.   By simulating the product/service and business development process, NUvention Energy helps students develop creative, interpersonal, business, and technical skills.  Students benefit from interaction with NUvention: Energy’s Advisory Board of business leaders in the sustainable energy field.

Other required participation

A Fellow is required to grade or TA one undergraduate ISEN course (at the level of 5-10 hours per week) for one quarter.  

Additional optional courses

The Fellows are encouraged to take, on an optional basis, additional courses with energy or sustainability topics offered by other departments and programs. ISEN maintains a comprehensive listing of these courses on the ISEN website.