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UNM part of inaugural Department of Energy Clean Energy Sciences Program cohort for faculty

May 21, 2024 - by Kim Delker

A faculty member from the UNM School of Engineering is part of the first-ever group in the Faculty-Applied Clean Energy Sciences (FACES) program, funded by the Department of Energy.

Tito Busani, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is representing UNM in this 10-week summer program. He will be among around 60 faculty members from around the country who will travel to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., to collaborate with scientists and other members of the cohort to develop scalable education modules on various clean energy-related topics.

The FACES program was created to provide real-world clean energy research opportunities at minority-serving institutions across the country. It also seeks to bridge the gap between Department of Energy laboratories and the academic community, enhance STEM education, and promote clean energy responsibility in social and environmental sciences.

Busani said he is looking forward to integrating what he learns in the program to infuse that knowledge into his course on photovoltaics he teaches at UNM and into his current research.

‘’This project has three pillars: UNM/NREL interaction, peer to peer interaction, and UNM/community interaction, which means research, and community and education — the core UNM missions,” he said. “UNM should be seen as a leader in US for clean energy.”

Collaboration will be a key part of this project.

“We will be leveraging the expertise of the Department of Energy labs and other universities to create customized learning solutions for classrooms and communities,” he said.

The education modules will be integrated into course curricula at each faculty member’s home educational institutions and shared across minority-serving institutions to support teachers' resource development and help students pursue careers in clean energy.

Busani will also be working with high school teachers around New Mexico so they can share knowledge about clean energy technologies with their students, as well as working with communities to integrate their placed-based knowledge to create a sustainable career pipeline that also helps communities embrace clean energy technology.

“We’re interested in how to put together PV [photovoltaic] partnerships that include design, hands-on training about solar panel installation as well as maintenance, for a sustainable ecosystem” Busani said.

He said he is working with a graduate student and a high school teacher from Zuni Pueblo, who are planning to travel with him to NREL as part of the project. He is also planning to have scientists from NREL visit UNM courses.

He said that the FACES cohort and partnership with NREL can help make UNM a community leader for energy efforts.

“We will be creating a STEM community that focuses on research, education and community engagement in New Mexico,” he said.

The program begins May 28 and ends Aug. 9.

Other universities who are part of the FACES cohort are Alabama State University, City University of New York, Brooklyn College, Florida International University, Hawaii Pacific University, Howard University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Northern Arizona University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Northwest Indian College, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Houston, the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

FACES is a collaborative effort between Department of Energy’s NREL, Office of Energy Justice and Equity, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.