Rice to offer new master’s in energy transition and sustainability

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Rice University will launch a Master of Energy Transition and Sustainability (METS) program this fall designed to equip students with the tools needed to thrive in the evolving energy industry landscape.

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A joint initiative of the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, METS is an opportunity for both recent college graduates with a science or engineering background and energy sector professionals at all stages of their professional journey to position themselves as leaders and experts on the energy transition. The 31 credit-hour program will train graduates to face emergent challenges in the energy sector and drive innovation in sustainability across a wide range of domains from technology to economics and policy.

“We believe that METS graduates will emerge as leaders and innovators in the energy industry, equipped with the skills and knowledge to drive sustainable solutions,” said Rice President Reginald DesRoches. “Together we can shape a brighter, more resilient and cleaner future for generations to come.”

Amy Dittmar, Howard R. Hughes Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the degree “will cross-train students across disciplines to tackle the complex challenges of the energy transition, allowing them to thrive in their careers and solve one of the most perplexing problems of our time.”

Hosted by the Rice departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering and Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, the program will offer an intentional framework for exploring burgeoning areas of interest like geothermal, hydrogen and critical minerals recovery as well as opportunities for the traditional oil and gas industry to support new energy and carbon management applications such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and subsurface storage.

“We are excited to welcome the inaugural cohort of METS students in the fall of 2024,” said Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics and astronomy. “This program offers a unique opportunity for students to delve into cutting-edge research, tackle real-world challenges and make a meaningful impact on the future of energy.”

With Biden administration investments of nearly $370 billion in programs targeting energy security and climate through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, and goals to eliminate carbon pollution in the power sector by 2035 and achieve a net zero emissions economy by 2050, the nation’s energy sector is poised to undergo changes that will impact workforce readiness and availability. METS is designed to allow graduates to tackle these changes and play a leading role in advancing sustainability goals.

“The global energy industry is undergoing a transformative shift, and Rice University is at the forefront of this change,” said Luay Nakhleh, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering and a professor of computer science and of biosciences. “Our joint METS program brings together the expertise of multiple departments to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of energy systems, technologies and policies.”

Julia Morgan, professor and chair of the Earth, environmental and planetary sciences department, highlighted the fact that METS builds on a track record of long-standing connections between Rice and the energy industry.

“We’re watching closely as the energy field is evolving and think this is a real opportunity to bring these specializations together in order to offer a comprehensive and well-informed perspective on the energy transition to those who plan to enter the workforce or are already pursuing careers in the energy sector during this historic shift,” Morgan said.

Required coursework covers unconventional and renewable energy resources, materials and technologies; subsurface geological systems and techniques for energy generation and storage; and economics, policy and environmental issues. The uniquely designed integrative capstone team project will further enable students to align their skill set and expertise with current energy workforce demands. METS has a flexible structure that allows students to complete curriculum requirements at their own pace within two to four semesters, accommodating both full-time and part-time schedules.

“This is an important initiative for Rice that is very much aligned with the university’s long-term commitment to tackle urgent generational challenges, not only in terms of research ⎯ we are well positioned to make significant contributions on that front ⎯ but also in terms of education,” said Michael Wong, the Tina and Sunit Patel Professor in Molecular Nanotechnology, chair and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a professor of chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology and of civil and environmental engineering. “We want prospective students to know that they can confidently learn the concepts and tools they need to thrive as sustainability and energy transition experts and thought leaders.”

Rice's Professional Science Master's Program office has been actively involved in developing METS and will be managing enrollment and administration for the new program.