“The most important challenge for this generation” is figuring out how to “build a sustainable energy future.”  

This was the message from MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield in her welcome address at the first ever U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium held on MIT’s campus last week.

Moreover, the challenges and stakes for building this clean energy future are such that our society will not be successful if half of the potential workforce is not engaged. This is the key focus of C3E -- an effort to advance the careers and leadership of professional women in the clean energy field. The initiative is led by the U.S. Energy Department in strong partnership with the MIT Energy Initiative.

Last week’s Women in Clean Energy Symposium is one of the pillars of the U.S. C3E program -- bringing together women from all career levels and paths working in clean energy to network and drive ongoing discussions around current issues in the field.

Both the breadth and depth of the day’s agenda accomplished this goal through a series of panel discussions and presentations focused on six key areas: U.S. Energy Policy, Advancements for the Developing World, Energy Technology and Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Innovative Business Models, Corporate Implementation, and Mentorship/Education. The day also offered opportunities to hear and learn from the C3E Ambassadors, a group of distinguished senior professionals who are tremendous role models for all generations.

The highlight of the symposium was the 2012 C3E Award ceremony, recognizing rising women with the potential to make great contributions in the six category thrusts that the symposium’s agenda covered. Each speaker and awardee brought her own unique life story and perspective, emphasizing both the crucial interdisciplinary pathways required for clean energy solutions and the innovative thinking needed to accomplish these goals.  

For example, Laura Stachel was honored for her work through We Care Solar in reducing maternal mortality in Africa by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using portable solar electricity suitcases. Judy Dorsey, another award recipient, helped spearhead Fort ZED, an initiative to create one of the world’s largest active net zero energy districts in my own hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado.

As a woman engineer, the interdisciplinary nature of clean energy first drew me to pursuing a career in the field and continues to inspire me.  Not only are technological breakthroughs from scientists and engineers crucial, contributions from professionals in the fields of policy and law, financing and business, and education and sociology are required for the opportunities and challenges in clean energy. This message was reinforced by the speakers and events at the Symposium. C3E is a fantastic initiative and a key step towards realizing the vision of building a clean energy future.

For more on the Women in Clean Energy Symposium, read the MIT News recap: Women's Impact in Clean Energy Is Growing Worldwide


Dr. Marina Sofos
Dr. Marina Sofos is the Sensors and Controls Technology Manager in the Building Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy.Dr. Marina Sofos is the Sensors and Controls Technology Manager in the Building Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy.
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