Hockfield Announces Creation of Energy Research Council

President Susan J. Hockfield announced the creation of the Environmental Research Council at the State of the Institute Forum on Monday, Sept. 29. The council will organize current and future Institute research related to the environment and will help establish a schoolwide “Environmental Initiative.”

The plan follows the May 2008 recommendations of a special committee chaired by Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Professor and Department Chair Maria Zuber that such an initiative be established.

The council will have 13 faculty members and will be chaired by Dara Entekhabi, the Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Earth Systems Initiative.

Research in the initiative will aim to understand and evaluate the Earth’s environmental systems and develop solutions to environmental problems, Entekhabi said.

Rapid global population growth has accelerated the impact of humanity on the environment, he said. Whatever this impact is, science should be able to predict and model this impact, he said.

Long-term problems are especially important to the council, Entekhabi said. The initiative will “enable research over the horizon and tackle high risk problems,” he said.

Students should involve themselves in the initiative, Entekhabi said. Students are the Institute’s “intellectual fuel,” he said.

The Energy Research Council will be politically neutral, Entekhabi said, and MIT should continue to be known for providing high-quality scientific advice unaffected by political burdens.

This research should have global consequences, said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75. “Air does not stop at political boundaries,” said Clay.

Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and Cornell also have initiatives that focus on the environment.

The ERC is expected to issue a research proposal for the initiative based on their work and input from other MIT faculty members by Feb. 15, 2009.