Sophomores, please read me: If you consider yourself a Sophomore in academic year 2021-22 and the IntroSems' VCA shows you in a different cohort (i.e., Frosh or Junior), please make a note of your correct cohort within your statement of interest. It is not possible to change the cohort field in the IntroSems' VCA, but the instructor will see your note when they build their class.
IntroSems quarters and schedules subject to change--check back often. Visit Re-Approaching Stanford for the latest updates on Academic Year 2021-22.
Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Energy Options for the 21st Century
The world consumption of fossil fuels, associated climate impacts and the options for a renewable energy economy are demanding solutions from today’s scientists, engineers, and policymakers. In this seminar, we will look at choices that can be envisioned for meeting the future energy needs of the United States and the rest of our planet, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. We'll explore the basic physics of energy sources, the technologies we might employ, and some of the intertwined public policy issues.
The first half of our course will survey possible energy technologies and develop an appreciation of the underlying physics to provide some quantitative estimates of the tradeoffs. We will explore the uses of energy in the US and world economy, and how we might change the resource mix going forward. We will explore fossil fuels, nuclear energy, biofuels, improving efficiency, renewables including wind, solar, tidal, hydropower and geothermal energy and learn how to compare their impacts and attractiveness with regard to global warming. In the second half of the course, the seminar members (individually or in groups) will be asked to prepare a discussion and paper on a selected technology or on a related public policy choice. An inquiring mind, but no previous expertise or course prerequisites, is required. We hope that you will learn to appreciate the need to bring quantitative estimates to the policy options in order to make rational choices for a sustainable world energy economy. We will use both lecture and discussion formats, and every class we critique material we find in the popular press in a short 15 minutes of “news and views”.
This Fall 2021 class is anticipated to be an in-person seminar; we are planning our field trips as in-person events to learn from local experts. We can’t predict what will unfold in University policy this fall, but in the unhappy event we have to shift to a virtual format, we will structure the class to allow remote participants to contribute to every aspect of the class.
This seminar is most immediately accessible for first- and second-year students with some science background, but we are particularly interested in a balanced class with a mix of technology and public policy directions as we think the intersections of science and policy viewpoints foster great class discussions.