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    Why Should I Study Energy Systems Engineering?

    January 26, 2017

     Choosing a college major is a big decision.

    You want to find something rewarding, while challenging yourself.  You also want to be sure there will be a demand for your expertise for decades to come, and clearly mankind will always be using energy and converting it from one form to another.

    Here are some reasons why you should think about making a career in Energy Systems Engineering (ESE), an exciting and fast-paced field.


    1. What is it?

    Energy Systems Engineering is a relatively new undergraduate degree offering launched by the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2009. The program is truly unique and unlike any other engineering degree in the country. The ESE program is designed to train engineers to address one of this country’s foremost challenges: to achieve energy independence and yet meet the growing demand for energy, while at the same time addressing critical environmental concerns.

    It should be emphasized that ESE is a rigorous engineering program that requires dedicated preparation in high school, including four years of math, science and language arts. In fact, technical-writing skills are emphasized throughout the ESE curriculum so that the program has more extensive writing requirements than most other programs at UW.

    2. What will I study?

    ESE engineers may choose training in alternative and environmentally-friendly energy conversion systems to complement their education in traditional technologies that will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future.

    The ESE degree has many course work requirements in common with the Mechanical Engineering degree, particularly in the thermal, fluids and energy-conversion sciences. However, the ESE program emphasizes energy conversion aspects of Mechanical Engineering and requires course work from UW’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), course work in environmental law and two electives picked from a list of classes that focus attention on energy and the environment. The SENR courses will expose students to issues related to permitting such as preparation of environmental impact studies, and regulations such as the Endangered Species Act. In addition, there are four technical electives that allow the student to choose more detailed study in personal areas of interest, including for example, courses in environmental engineering, wind engineering, solar engineering, nuclear engineering and petroleum engineering.

    3. Where can I work?

    Although the discipline of mechanical engineering has historically been responsible for the design of energy conversion cycles and equipment, issues outside the conventional realms of engineering are increasingly important to address as new and improved energy conversion systems are implemented. The engineer trained in energy systems will be better equipped than traditional mechanical engineers to deal with the environmental, legal, political and economic aspects of new energy projects.

    Energy systems engineers pursue a variety of jobs and occupations. For example, they might be hired to manage operations of a wind turbine farm, analyze efficiency of hydro-electric power systems, oversee production of innovative fuel-cell technologies, evaluate the economic viability of new solar power installations and assess the environmental impact of alternative energy systems.  UW’s ESE graduates are employed at Halliburton, Sustainably Built, Kinder Morgan, KB Energy, Stanley Consultants, Kiewit Mining, Schlumberger, Encana, Baker-Hughes, Novi Energy, Cheyenne Power and Light, TREC Inc., Bright Agrotech, and others.  In addition, a number of our ESE graduates are pursuing graduate degrees in engineering.


     Learn More About ESE