New Bachelor of Science available in energy science and technology

Kropf Matt
Dr. Matt Kropf

A new Bachelor of Science program in energy science and technology available beginning this fall takes advantage of the region’s place in the petroleum and gas industries and the growing interest in alternative energy sources. 

            Developing the interdisciplinary major has been one of the goals of the American Refining Group/Harry R.Halloran Jr. Energy Institute at Pitt-Bradford for the past several years.

            The new four-year degree will complement the university’s two-year associate degree in petroleum technology, said Dr. Matt Kropf, director of the institute and program director for the new major.

            The core of the major is a survey of advanced mathematics, energy science and technology, physics, chemistry, global information systems, geology and engineering designed to give students a solid scientific background preparing them for work in a variety of energy fields, from traditional fossil fuels to alternative energies. The major adds social sciences that give students an understanding of the policy issues surrounding today’s energy debate, including economics, politics, environmental studies and ethics.

            The degree places a focus on the technical aspects of integrating sensor networks with computer monitoring and control with a new course called Sensors and Automation and a senior capstone project requirement. At the upper levels, students will be encouragedto specialize through approved electives, focusing on energy use in buildings, alternative energy production, petroleum technology, nuclear energy or energy and the environment.

Kropf has been teaching Introduction to Energy Science and Technology every semester since the fall of 2011 and taught Sensors and Automation during the spring semester.

            Kropf said that there has been a lot of support for a four-year program in energy studies from local industries, including American Refining, Dresser-Rand, Domtar and Terra Green Energy. He plans to work with those companies and others to develop internships and opportunities for undergraduate research.

            “Everywhere you look, opportunities are rapidly growing for specialists in renewable energy to develop, manage and control energy needs,” said Harold Carr of St. Marys, who is on track to be the first graduate of the new major. “The future outlook in renewable energies looks extremely strong, which is why this program has sparked my interest.”

            As part of the university’s current 50 and Beyond fundraising campaign, it plans to raise $1.25 million to renovate a storage building on campus to accommodate the new program. Kropf said the proposed lab would provide an industrial laboratory setting for students to learn hands-on, conduct research in collaboration with industry and potentially operate a small biodiesel plant to convert waste grease from campus dining into fuel for campus vehicles.

The facility would also accommodate the technologies featured in the Sensors and Automation course and other renewable energy demonstration projects, such as small-scale solar and wind.

            Dr. Steven Hardin, vice president and dean of academic affairs, said the major was developed in large part at the request of students in the current two-year petroleum technology program who wanted to go on to earn a related four-year degree.