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Updated 10:00 AM February 5, 2007




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Energy Secretary Bodman keynote for inaugural symposium

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman will deliver the keynote speech when the University hosts a wide-ranging energy symposium to kick off the recent establishment of its multidisciplinary initiative in energy research.

The two-day event, "Energy Science, Technology, and Policy: Facing the Challenge," will feature speakers from around the country in academia, industry and government. The free public symposium will be held Feb. 13-14 at Rackham Graduate School. Registration is requested. For details see

Gary Was, director of the new Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute (MMPEI), says the symposium will raise the profile of energy research at U-M among academic colleagues at other universities, within the campus community, as well as with government and industry.

"Michigan will draw some of the most outstanding people in the country to address this topic," Was says, "and that sends a message about our strength in the field. We will bring some of the nation's top scholars and practitioners together to share their perspectives on the energy challenge."

The symposium is organized by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the MMPEI, and is sponsored by DTE Energy.

In describing the symposium, organizers note that there are "few contemporary challenges facing humankind more threatening than the unsustainable nature of our current energy infrastructure," and that the situation "poses a particular challenge for the state of Michigan" because of its historic and current reliance on the automobile industry.

The challenge further is intensified by the fact that the Great Lakes States are the largest consumers and producers of electricity, an energy source now reliant on unsustainable fossil fuels.

In September, the University announced its energy research initiative, and the formation of the MMPEI, a new umbrella organization for energy research on campus. MMPEI will focus its expertise on advanced energy sources, energy efficiency, energy policy and global sustainability. The institute will coordinate and support energy-related research across academic disciplines, with the interdisciplinary approach serving as a key element to its uniqueness and impact on energy problems, Was says.

For instance, at a recent energy workshop on campus in January, 77 faculty members from 11 schools, colleges and units delivered 87 talks on their research projects, he says. The event was sponsored by the MMPEI, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, and the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and attracted more than 250 attendees.

"The workshop was structured as an internal event designed to connect faculty engaged in energy research across this campus," Was says. "This is a huge campus and people working in one department might not have the foggiest idea what's going on in units at the other end of campus."

U-M has an energy research portfolio of more than $35 million in the areas of nuclear power systems, solar power, hydrogen technology, fuel cells, battery research, low-power electronics, transportation systems, and energy and pollution policy. For more information on MMPEI research activities go to

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