First offshore wind energy engineering master’s program in US introduced at Tufts

Offshore wind turbines are pictured. (Via Wikipedia)

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will introduce a new master’s program in offshore wind energy engineering in the fall. This three-semester program is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to TuftsNow.

According to the official M.S. program page, the goal of the program is to provide students with “world-class training in wind policy, technical applications and project management to prepare them for jobs in global industry, academia, and the public sector.”

Laurie Baise, professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, described the development of the program as a student-modeled process.

“Over the last few years, we have had several students interested in offshore wind,” Baise said in an email. “We have used our experience advising them through the curriculum and into the job market to help influence the program.”

It was this student interest that inspired the development of the formal program, Eric Hines, a professor of the practice of Civil and Environmental Engineering, noted. He said the department has been developing seminar courses that fit the program for the past three years.

“We have created the program in response to longstanding requests from students to offer more courses on sustainability and renewable energy,” Hines said in an email to the Daily.

Shelley Kwok, a mechanical engineering student in the clean energy engineering class, described the appeal of offshore wind.

“I was drawn to offshore wind because I think it has the potential to revolutionize energy generation in New England and is a really interesting combination of different engineering fields,” Kwok, a senior, said in an email to the Daily. “I’m especially interested in the technology innovation that’s going on within this field as a mechanical engineer.”

Baise said the program is more than just a set of classes, emphasizing industry connections and networking in the growing field.

According to TuftsNow, part of this is the Tufts Offshore Power Research and Education (OSPRE) Collaborative, a connection to important members of the offshore wind industry.

“We are developing OSPRE in relationship with industry partners that we have been working with for the past several years,” Hines said. “This collaborative is in its early launch phase and will grow over the coming years into an important mechanism for developing and refining a curriculum that is responsive to the needs of the offshore wind industry.”

Hines explained that wind energy is especially important now with recent development across Europe, New England and specifically Massachusetts, making these courses topical.

“We are at the beginning of [a] historic transition to a low-carbon, electricity based energy economy … The first commercial scale turbines that will be constructed in the Federal Wind Energy Areas south of Martha’s Vineyard will be as tall as the Boston skyline … Massachusetts is leading the way with construction of the first commercial scale 800 MW offshore wind farm by Vineyard Wind,” Hines said.

Hines explained that with Boston becoming a key location for offshore wind, the industry has been looking to Tufts.

“As the world comes to Boston to set up shop, multiple industry partners have reached out to Tufts looking for top talent,” Hines said. “Over the years, we have placed students in offshore wind industry jobs both locally and abroad.”

Hines added that having a formal curriculum will help students to more effectively learn what they need to work in offshore wind.

“[T]he Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has worked closely with colleagues across the [School of Engineering] to develop a flexible and integrated curriculum in offshore wind infrastructure … Tufts faculty are working collaboratively to pivot into this new field to help define on a state and national level the knowledge base required for future offshore wind professionals,” Hines said.

Baise stated that the course content is also interdisciplinary, incorporating professors and courses from many departments.

“The interdisciplinary content helps provide context to the student through topics such as energy policy, economics and project management as they relate to the offshore wind industry,” Baise said.

Hines stated that the program has involved faculty from the Electrical, Computer and Mechanical Engineering departments as well as from the Fletcher School and the Gordon Institute.

According to Baise, the program will continue to grow and adapt as the wind industry changes and the number of majors grows. This includes adding new courses and partnering with more departments, Baise added.

Hines sees the major as the beginning of an important transition into the future.

“This is an exciting time to get involved … We are engaged in a transition of historic proportions, and we are going to need our country’s top talent to help make this transition a reality,” Hines said. “Tufts attracts students with the capacity to work across disciplines in engineering, policy and business to help build a vital offshore wind industry.”


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