Hilo campus signage

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo will begin offering a certificate in energy science in the fall 2016 semester.

“Energy science is a really critical component of our future,” says Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. “It’s tied right in with our local agriculture. Our energy is dependent on outside resources, and nutrients used as fertilizers are derived from outside energy, too. We are so dependent on imported fossil fuel, oil and coal. For us to become self-reliant is extremely critical.”

He says they hope to eventually offer a whole undergraduate degree in energy science; currently, there is no such undergraduate program in the U.S.

Certificate program

The certificate program offers two tracks. The first is for non-science majors and focuses on energy policy and the second is a more rigorous one for people with natural science backgrounds.

While the program officially starts in the fall, two energy science courses will be offered this summer.

Philippe Binder, a UH Hilo physics professor, will teach in and has taken the lead on promoting the energy science program. Engineering professor Shihwu Sung, whose focus is biomass, was recently hired to teach in the new certificate program.

The County of Hawaiʻi Department of Research and Development is a contributor of funds to this program development.

Preparing students for future industry

“The nexus of food, water and energy is the core. We need a lot of energy to grow our food, and we can’t grow the food without water,” Mathews says. “It’s all connected to the future of humanity, and so these are areas that need to be critically protected.”

Mathews says an energy sciences certificate, which will take two to three semesters to complete, will give a student a leg up in terms of entering the energy sector after college.

“Companies like HELCO and those in the solar industry, for instance, will appreciate someone who has training in energy sciences. It’s a starting point.”

Read Leslie Lang’s full story on UH Hilo Stories website for more about this program.