ND Energy partners with ThinkND to connect with the alumni community on grand challenges in energy

Thinnd Ndenergy

The Center for Sustainable Energy (ND Energy) at the University of Notre Dame was featured in the ThinkND Weekly Digest No. 156, highlighting energy-related programs in the area of Science and Technology for their more than 22,000 alumni and friends to explore and learn about the grand challenges in energy. Peter C. Burns, the Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences and Director of ND Energy, introduced ND Energy to the ThinkND community in his opening letter that included many aspects of the full story below.

ThinkND is an online community created by the Alumni Association that connects community members with videos, podcasts, articles, courses, and other resources to foster learning, thinking, and inquiring minds to spark conversations. The Weekly Digest highlights a specific topic each Sunday. If you are not already a member of the ThinkND community, please join here.  

The following story highlights the programs and services offered by ND Energy to the Notre Dame and surrounding communities and the impact it has on creating a clean and sustainable energy future for all: 


The production, use, and distribution of energy has never been more relevant to the future of human health and our habitability on Earth than it is today. Goal 7 of the United Nation’s plan for global sustainable development is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Yet today a billion people have no access to electricity and two billion continue to use open fires for cooking and heating. Achieving an equitable energy transition worldwide is a tremendous challenge, in part owing to the tremendous reliance on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major driver in climate change. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the United States alone, energy consumption totaled 97.33 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2021*. This consumption was from the use of non-renewable energy sources (80%) like petroleum, natural gas, and coal, and the rest was from nuclear energy (8%) and renewable energy sources (12%) like biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar.

At the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy), we understand the importance of balance in order to create a clean and sustainable energy future for generations to come. This has been our mission since the center began in 2005, first as a college center in the College of Engineering and now as a University-wide center with the opportunity to serve all colleges and schools. We aim to influence major advancements in interdisciplinary research, provide unsurpassed education programs for students in all majors, and develop outreach activities to increase awareness and knowledge of grand challenges in energy and to create a broad community of energy-interested partners. This is how we balance our efforts and contribute daily to the health, safety and habitability of our common home – Earth.    


Research business development is central to our mission. In collaboration with 90 faculty affiliates and over 300 research associates, ND Energy enables faculty to advance interdisciplinary research focused on their interests. ND Energy’s research themes cover a broad range of areas in sustainable energy to support faculty expertise, future growth, and the ever-changing energy landscape. Advancing research and increasing research funding are cornerstones to this process. ND Energy provides comprehensive research services from proposal preparation to post-award support and access to essential resources, including the Materials Characterization Facility, which has unique capabilities and analytical instrumentation to solve some of the most complex problems facing researchers today. Our annual student research fellowships also support research advancements as undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with faculty on their research projects while enhancing their education and gaining essential skills in the laboratories. We also host and co-sponsor several research-focused symposia, workshops, and seminars to foster research collaborations, broaden knowledge of current challenges and opportunities in energy, and build a cohesive and innovative research community. This includes the ND Energy Research Symposium that provides an annual venue for bringing together world-renowned researchers and critical thinkers to discuss crucial topics in energy.


Education is paramount to our mission as we prepare the next generation of energy leaders and support the University’s mission to offer unsurpassed undergraduate education. Housed in the College of Engineering, the Energy Studies Minor is administered by ND Energy and is open to undergraduate students in all majors. Since the minor began in 2011, there have been 189 graduates with the largest cohort of 40 graduates in 2022. Interest in the minor has grown significantly over the years and is likely to continue as more students choose to remedy climate change and the harmful effects of carbon emissions on our planet through formal education and careers in energy. We understand the urgency to transition to a clean and sustainable energy future and thereby collaborate with departments across campus to ensure the minor offers the right coursework and intellectual learning experiences so students are prepared to lead this effort successfully and in a just and equitable way. One example is the minor’s capstone course Puerto Rico: Road Map to a Renewable Future that includes a one-week immersion in Puerto Rico for students to study the island’s energy infrastructure and efforts to become energy independent, especially in areas where energy sources are scarce or unreliable and the health needs of the community require electricity. This course and the spring 2022 trip to Puerto Rico were highlighted in the “What Would You Fight For?” ad -- Fighting for Renewable Energy -- that aired Saturday, September 17, 2022. The ad offers a glimpse of how our students and faculty work together in collaboration with local and Puerto Rican partners to be a powerful force for good.


ND Energy realizes that students need to prepare for this level of engagement starting at a young age and that involving a diverse group of students will enable a broad base of prospective energy leaders. Starting with our K-12 outreach activities and pre-college programs, ND Energy promotes advancements in STEM education and post-secondary degrees. Our close partnerships with local elementary and high schools allow our faculty affiliates and research associates to engage with young scientists and teach them about key concepts in energy through demonstrations and hands-on activities. Additionally, our partnerships with Mishawaka High School and large research grants allow high school students to engage with faculty affiliates in their laboratories to learn about key concepts in energy through collaborative research experiences and instruction. These programs focus on translating research into meaningful activities and thereby, support a comprehensive understanding and exchange of knowledge for community members of any age. We also host and co-sponsor outreach events for our campus and surrounding communities, including the annual Notre Dame Energy Week, which has become our signature event over the past sixteen years. During Energy Week, we focus on raising awareness of grand challenges in energy and arrange various activities that appeal to a broad audience, inviting global experts to discuss timely topics in energy to engage students, faculty, staff and the general public in important energy-related discussions.

Join our Community

ND Energy’s impact on research, education and outreach is largely due to its leadership team who carry out our mission and engage others in advancing our goals. This vibrant energy community creates a strong foundation that aligns with the University’s Catholic character “to be a powerful force for good” and Pope Francis’s second encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Both support our vision and inspire us to transition efficiently and justly to a clean and sustainable energy future for generations to come. We hope you will join us on this profound and urgent journey.

*U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Monthly Energy Review (April 2022), Tables 1.3 and 2.1-2.6.


For questions or more information, please contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at bvillaro@nd.edu or 574-631-4776.