New Duke MEMP Energy Club is fully charged

Posted On:

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 - 8:46 am

The Energy Initiative accepts funding requests from student groups seeking to advance energy education, research and engagement at Duke. This fall saw the emergence of a new energy club connected with the Pratt School of Engineering's Master of Engineering Management Program (MEMP).

With our sponsorship, the Duke MEMP Energy Club began the year fully charged: hosting three faculty/industry lunches, touring the Duke Free Electron Laser Laboratory, undertaking two consulting projects, serving as project managers for Duke Smart Home initiatives, and helping plan the Duke University Energy Conference and first-ever Energy Week at Duke.

Catch the highlights in their report below. 

Faculty/Industry Lunch 1: Dr. Josiah Knight

In October, the Duke MEMP Energy Club hosted the first of its Faculty/Industry Lunch series. The guest researcher was Dr. Josiah Knight, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. He is also Co-Director of the Energy and Environment Certificate and a Faculty Network Member of the Energy Initiative at Duke.

The students in attendance were a diverse mix, including both graduate and undergraduate students from the Pratt, Nicholas and Fuqua Schools. Dr. Knight discussed his current research areas, solar thermal energy and alternate methods for ground transportation.

The students were riveted by his detailed narrative and asked questions touching a host of issues:

  • cost effectiveness and efficiency of energy generation through solar thermal versus photovoltaic and other means of energy generation; 
  • the potential for large-scale commercialization of solar thermal, and its adaptability to mass transit systems such as railways; 
  • the technical feasibility of scaling down solar energy generation and coupling it with battery storage to drive light duty vehicles; and
  • other forms of urban transportation such as auto rickshaws in India.

The lunch session provided an ideal platform for students interested in the energy sector to interact and learn firsthand from an experienced faculty member. Quite a few attendees took away ideas for further research and exploration, and Dr. Knight expressed interest in continuing to assist students in their work. The experience was truly rewarding for everyone in attendance.

Faculty/Industry Lunch 2: Dr. Dan Vermeer

The Duke MEMP Energy Club hosted its second Faculty/Industry Lunch session with Dr. Dan Vermeer, Associate Professor of the Practice of Business Administration. He is also the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Development & the Global Environment (EDGE) and a faculty network member of the Duke University Energy Initiative.

We hosted a very diverse group of students, including undergraduates, graduates and even doctoral students from Pratt, Nicholas, Fuqua, Trinity and the Law School. It was an excellent opportunity to interact with Dr. Vermeer and learn more about his research, courses taught and experiences, both on the professional and personal front. We started by introducing ourselves and our fields of interest, so that we would get to know more about each other. Following this, Dr. Vermeer gave a brief introduction of himself by talking about his educational background: a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

Learning about his experiences living in Nepal and the Himalayan mountains in India (learning to speak the local languages during his time there) really left us awestruck and made us curious as to how he ended up in his current career. He spoke about his career trajectory. We learned about his role as director of the water management & sustainable value chain at The Coca-Cola Company, after which he chose to share his knowledge and experience as a professor here at Duke. The students had many questions, ranging from his experiences to the feasibility of solar and battery storage, possible energy generation mixes in the future, and the latest trends in the energy industry. We also had an interesting discussion on sustainability and its impact on how corporations operate. He explained how companies are being forced to address sustainability issues, since they will be the crux of keeping costs low in the future due to increasingly limited resources.

This lunch session provided us with the opportunity to interact with Dr. Vermeer in a more casual setting outside the classroom and learn from his various experiences. Dr. Vermeer also gave us excellent feedback and was delighted with our engagement and inquisitiveness during the lunch.

Faculty/Industry Lunch 3: Benjamin Gibson

The Energy Club's third lunch guest was Benjamin Gibson, former Assistant Director of Research with the Energy Initiative at Duke University (now employed by the EPA), who coordinated interdisciplinary research efforts on energy technology, markets, and policy.

A diverse mix of students attended, including both graduate and undergraduate students from the Pratt and Nicholas Schools. Mr. Gibson gave a 20-minute detailed presentation on “Why Energy Matters,” which gave a broad perspective on the energy crisis and challenges confronting this sector globally, as well as outlining opportunities for cutting-edge research and business that play a crucial role in promoting environmental sustainability. The students in attendance had a plethora of questions, ranging from general trends in policy development to particular fossil fuel energy generation practices to future career opportunities.

The lunch session overall provided an ideal platform for students interested in the energy sector to interact and learn firsthand from an experienced researcher with the Energy Initiative.


In December 2016, the MEMP Energy Club hosted a tour of the Duke Free Electron Laser Laboratory (DFELL). A Department of Energy Center of Excellence, DFELL produces high-energy gamma rays used for multiple areas of research. Leading the tour were Patrick Wallace and Mark Sikora, who work at the facility full-time.

Duke students and faculty had the unique opportunity to learn about the process, which uses electrons to generate high-energy photons, and see the astonishing components firsthand. Similar equipment will be used in future nuclear fusion reactors, including ITER.

Not surprisingly, making gamma rays requires a significant amount of energy. Members of the Duke MEMP Energy Club are dedicated to ensuring the world is provided with abundant sources of clean, sustainable, and affordable energy so that facilities such as the Duke Free Electron Laser Laboratory can continue their world-class research.

Consulting Projects

Project 1: ICF International 

Duke MEMP Energy Club, in collaboration with ICF International, conducted a U.S. market assessment to determine the available opportunities for installing Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects at multifamily buildings. Led by Sreeram Bhargav Dhurjati,  club members Meghal Chaudhari, Nitish Garg and Saket Agrawal analyzed the energy use patterns of multifamily buildings across different states to determine the optimum CHP project sizes in each of the facilities within a timeline of 6 weeks.

ICF International provides professional services and technology-based solutions to government, commercial and international clients. The company offers advisory and implementation services to its clients to help them conceive, develop, implement and improve solutions in strategy and policy analysis, program management, project evaluation, and other services. Its services primarily address four markets: energy and climate change; environment and infrastructure; health, human services and social programs, and homeland security and defense. ICF’s advisory and management consulting services include needs and markets assessment, policy analysis, strategy and concept development, change management strategy, enterprise architecture, and program design. Its implementation services include information technology solutions, project and program management, project delivery, strategic communications and training.

Project 2: iUtilities

Duke MEMP Energy Club collaborated with iUtilities this fall to help design an effective business model and marketing plan that would provide maximum value to its clients. Going ahead, energy club members will also work on other iUtilities projects, which will provide members with valuable hands-on experiences.

iUtilities is an entrepreneurial venture that aims to provide valuable insights and recommendations to its clients for reducing their facilities' energy consumption.

Duke Smart Home Projects

Duke MEMP Energy Club collaborated with Duke Smart Home to provide hands-on experience in project management for MEMP students. Three students were chosen to support the Smart Home project teams as Project Managers.

  • Versha Rangaswamy (MEMP ’17) led the Solar Bench project.
  • Priyanka Sharma (MEMP ’16) led the Smart Shelters Project.
  • Bhavya Gandhi (MEMP ’17) led the LED Tube Lights Project.

Energy Week 2016

Energy Week Research Poster Presentation:
Nitish Garg collaborated with Duke Energy Week organizing team to chair the Research Poster Presentation Competition. The competition was attended by 110 students from six universities across the U.S.

Duke University Energy Conference 2016 -  Panel on “Challenges and Opportunities for Distributed Energy Resources”:
Sreeram Bhargav Dhurjati and Saket Agrawal organized a panel talk on challenges and opportunities for distributed energy resources. Panelists included these leaders:

  • Dan Halperin (Director of Distributed Generation, PG&E)
  • Patrick Wilkinson (President & Head of North American Energy Automation, Siemens)
  • Cristin Lyons (Partner and Grid Transformation Practice Lead, ScottMadden)

The discussion was moderated by Katherine Hamilton (Principal and Cofounder, 38 North Solutions; Energy Gang). The panel took a comprehensive look at the present and future state of distributed energy resources (DERs) through multiple lenses: technological challenges of DER integration; customer adoption and awareness; utilities’ adoption challenges and opportunities; and regulatory commissions’ actions, obstacles and perceptions.

Want to join the Duke MEMP Energy Club?
Contact Nitish Garg

Are you a Duke alum or energy professional who wants to connect with Duke students interested in energy? 
Contact Stacy Peterson.

Interested in giving opportunities related to the Energy Initiative's education efforts? 
Contact Suellen Aldina