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"More students exploring subject of renewable energy, but U.S. still lags - Page 2"

More students exploring subject of renewable energy, but U.S. still lagsThe nation’s economic problems may also be contributing to the trend.

Experts say undergraduates who once dreamed of outsized salaries in finance

may now be more willing to spend five years living on modest graduate

stipends, especially if they see prospects for future growth."In the past, very talented kids would go into business school, to Wall

Street, get big bonuses," said Yannis Yortsos, the engineering dean at

University of Southern California. "That may not be the case for a while.

They may go into engineering instead."Yortsos has seen a rapid rise in student interest in renewable energy

research. It’s driven, he says, by a "social awareness" of sustainability

issues and climate change.Loni Iverson, 21, is a senior at USC. "I became an engineer because of

alternative energy and the potential it had" to solve problems, said

Iverson, a mechanical engineering student who assists a professor’s

research into fuel cells that run on bacteria. "In high school, I kept

hearing about America’s dependence on foreign oil and the war in Iraq and

gas prices rising."Dan Singleton, 25, a third-year doctoral student in USC’s electrical

engineering program, works with a research group that applies high-voltage

power pulses to ignition systems in engines. They’re working on a system

that yields more power for less fuel than traditional spark plugs,

potentially reducing gasoline use in cars."I wanted to be able to make an impact in my life," he said. "Working on

energy seemed like the best way to do it."After he earns his Ph.D., Singleton hopes to work with small companies

doing similar work, or to start his own. That’s the sort of career path the

Obama administration hopes to encourage by investing in energy R&D.Graduate research often can leads to patents, which often can lead to

start-up companies, and sometimes, major industries. Economists have shown

strong links between patent production and economic growth.University presidents and deans see twin challenges: encouraging more

domestic students such as Iverson to pursue graduate degrees and retaining

more of the foreign students who increasingly return to their home

countries after earning degrees, lured by quality jobs or pushed by

complications in securing legal U.S. residence.The immigrant scientists and engineers who study in the United States

appear to be more inclined to take risks and start new companies, said

Alice Gast, the president of Lehigh University. In her last job, as vice

president for research at MIT, Gast noted in a 2005 faculty newsletter that

the university had seen a rapid increase in patent disclosures with at

least one international student involved.Gast and other university presidents say that to keep domestic students

engaged and keep international students in the U.S., the federal government

must sustain its energy research spending over time. Top students, Gast

said, "will go where the excitement is."Obama’s energy secretary, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, said in

a recent interview that he sees "a new cadre of idealistic people who want

to work on (energy) in any way they can" - and that harnessing them is the

key to the nation’s future."You have to start the long term now," Chu said. "The long term is being

aware that a lot of students want to study science and engineering for this

issue, to support them. That requires patience."Page 1To view the original article please click hereTo find out more about the traning and education available in your area

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