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New UC Berkeley energy engineering major first of its kind in nation

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FEBRUARY 08, 2012

Beginning next fall, UC Berkeley students in the College of Engineering will have the opportunity to earn a degree in a new major — energy engineering.

The major was approved in December and is the first of its kind in the United States, the engineering college website states. It will join other majors in the undergraduate Engineering Science Program in order to address the “increasing importance of energy in all engineering endeavors,” according to the website.

“Most major corporations now have, or desire to have, employees that are energy experts or analysts,” said Tarek Zohdi, professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the program, in an email. “The Energy Engineering degree provides the foundation and exposure to energy systems, with the goal to produce undergraduates who are energy systems experts.”

Applications to the major are now open to the college’s undeclared and change-of-major students, as well as those transferring into the college. Eight students will be admitted to the major for the fall 2012 semester, according to Karen Rhodes, executive director of marketing and communications for the college. Students will also be able to declare an energy engineering minor in the fall, according to the college’s website.

“The major really builds on an across-the-board interest in energy that you find in every college,” Rhodes said. “There is a rising demand for this area of expertise, with energy costs rising and concerns about conservation and carbon and carbon-neutral storage.”

The major will be open to all College of Engineering applicants for the fall 2013 semester, and 24 to 32 students are expected to be enrolled in the major once it is fully implemented, according to the website.

The major — interdisciplinary in nature — will be assembled mostly from courses already offered in the college so that “costs are virtually nothing to the college and UC as a whole,” Zohdi said in the email.

The major — which will focus on principles such as energy generation and policy — will consist of classes in chemistry, mathematics, physics and engineering, among other related courses.

“This is a suitable major for the future,” said Shaofan Li, campus professor of applied mechanics. “Energy is more useful to society in general, and more and more people are moving in that sector.”

New courses offered will include a freshman energy engineering seminar, featuring speakers designed to expose students to a range of energy-related topics, and a research capstone class supervised by Zohdi.

“I think this is exactly what Berkeley needs now,” said Sumer Mohammed, a freshman studying chemical engineering. “We have always been known as leaders for technology and having innovative ideas, so having a new major that relates back to the current world  situation would be a good addition.”

Contact Geena Cova at 


FEBRUARY 09, 2012