College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

New wind energy research opportunity for undergraduates

As wind energy becomes an increasingly promising renewable energy source, research in the area continues to pick up at Iowa State. Undergraduate students interested in the growing field now have a way to get more involved through the newly established Wind Energy Science, Engineering, and Policy (WESEP) program.

WESEP is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) that offers students the opportunity to receive training and get hands-on research experience in areas that address critical, long-term national needs in wind energy-related areas.

Gene Takle, professor of agronomy, and James McCalley, Harpole Professor in Electrical Engineering, worked together to create the REU. “The technology of wind energy is changing rapidly, with longer blades, larger generators, taller towers, and more turbines on the landscape,” Takle said. “Improvements in efficiency are very likely to emerge as the technology evolves, offering a wide range of career opportunities for young scientists and engineers eager to be part of transforming our nation’s energy supply to renewable sources.”

This REU program was conceived as part of a much larger wind energy thrust that has emerged in the College of Engineering. There are currently efforts underway to develop a graduate program leading to a PhD in wind energy, and two new undergraduate courses in wind energy are being offered in 2011–2012. “We envision this REU as one element of a program to establish Iowa State as a lead university for educating the next generation of leadership in wind science and engineering,” Takle said.

WESEP will sponsor ten fellowships for students to participate in an intensive 10-week on-campus research program in one of four wind energy-related areas—

  • Wind Energy Resource Characterization and Aerodynamic Loads
  • Wind Energy Conversion Systems and Grid Operations
  • Materials, Manufacturing, Construction, and Supply Chain
  • Reliability and Turbine Monitoring

The program will also include one-on-one mentoring from a faculty mentor, additional training through short courses and workshops, field trips to operating wind farms and turbine and blade manufacturers, networking with industry experts at weekly “lunch and learns,” and access to state-of-the-art laboratories.

Applications for the WESEP REU are due April 8, 2011. More information, including details about stipends as well as eligibility requirements are available on the WESEP website.

Other active REU programs that are associated with the College of Engineering include the NSF REU at CBiRC; Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging REU; Sustainable Production and Processing Systems for Biomass Derived Fuels of the Future; Summer Program for Interdisciplinary Research and Education – Emerging Interface Technologies; and Biological Materials and Processes REU.