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Students Launch Energy Club With Focus on Dialog, Connections

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A new club at the University of Kansas looks to provide students with a unique opportunity to learn more about a complex industry that ties together many different areas of study.

Brian Larkin, a senior in mechanical engineering, and Greg Loving, a junior majoring in chemical engineering and economics, co-founded the club at the start of the fall semester after a visit in March to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where they got a first-hand look at MIT’s Energy Club, with its 700-plus members.

“We were just blown away at the amount of energy research they were doing at MIT, the importance they placed on this issue, how much attention this had gotten and thought something similar would be a good fit at KU,” Larkin said. Both Larkin and Loving are in KU’s Self Engineering Leadership Fellows (SELF) Program, which provides training for engineering students striving to become entrepreneurs or leaders in industry.

Larkin said the club looks to bring together key players in the energy industry, including business leaders, policy makers and academics. Club members, who can be in any academic major, should expect panel discussions, lectures and networking opportunities.

“Students will get connected with employers. That’s not the sole reason of club, but it’s a perk,” Larkin said. “We hope the students that join are very interested in working in the energy industry and making a difference, because you realize how interconnected this is to the global economy and the U.S. leading that economy.”

Club co-founder Loving said the idea is to present a variety of viewpoints for each energy-related discussion.

“Our goal is to create a dialogue among many different groups. We want all sides of an issue represented so we can start making progress toward solutions. We really want this club to create a conversation,” Loving said.

Nearly 50 students have joined the club so far. Registration for the club is available here: http://kuenergycouncil.ku.edu/online_forms/forms/ku-student-energy-council.

Larkin said club members could also look forward to a regional energy conference that serves as a student research showcase, bringing in big names from across the Midwest.

“It’s just a far-reaching industry. I think once students start realizing how important it is to the state of Kansas and the country, they’re going to get excited to work in it and learn more about it,” Larkin said.

The Energy Club also meshes nicely with the KU Energy Council, a group of KU researchers and faculty members that focus on energy issues in transportation, bio-fuels, sustainability, education and outreach, among others. Jeremy Viscomi is part of KU’s Tertiary Oil Recovery Project and serves as program officer of the University’s Energy Council. He worked closely with the students to get the KU Energy Club up and running.

“This benefits KU by creating a venue for students to discuss key energy issues as well as providing them with the opportunity to explore individual interests in energy study,” Viscomi said. “Energy is one of the key issues of our age and Kansas is well placed to be a leader in the development of energy innovation. A student energy club provides students with an opportunity to contribute to those innovations.”

The Energy Club’s next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m., October 6, at the courtside room in the Burge Union, where the group will hold elections for leadership positions.

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