How to get into ERG?

Each year in the graduate program application season, I receive many questions from prospective students on ERG. I always try to be as helpful as possible since I was once one of the applicants. I'd like to put some shared resources below for those who are interested in ERG program. However, this has nothing to do with ERG official application. I'm not serving on the admission committee, and I'm not in a position to give you tips about how to apply but only to share the ERG spirit that I cherish.

Before you contact any current ERG student, it would be best if you can read the existing resources online About ERG, and ERG Admission. You can basically learn almost everything about ERG admission, ERG people, and ERG research online, in addition, you may check Life@ERG blog for the real life and perspectives of students and scholars at ERG. Following ERG on Twitter @ERGBerkeley and on Facebook The Energy and Resources Group is also a good way to stay tuned about ERG events and news.

Three "smart creatives" shaped the earlier stage of ERG, Charles K. (Ned) Birdsall, Mark N. Christensen, and John Holdren. This was documented well in a memorial piece of Ned Birdsall.

"In the 1970s Ned realized that, although his research related to fusion plasmas was important towards achieving a sustainable long-term energy future, there were more immediate problems concerned with energy supply and the impacts of energy use on the environment. He also knew that solutions would involve a combination of technical, economic, and policy considerations. To address these questions in an academic setting, he chaired an interdisciplinary campus committee recruiting faculty from a broad range of disciplines. After meeting for almost a year, the group concluded that a graduate group would be the best mechanism for interdisciplinary research. They developed a curriculum based mainly on existing classes, but also recommending a few new interdisciplinary courses. Ned met with Vice Chancellor Mark Christensen, who was overseeing the efforts of the committee, and they came up with a radical proposal for an “augmented” graduate group which would have a core faculty and would report directly to the Vice Chancellor. The first core faculty member was John Holdren, who arrived as an Assistant Professor of Energy and Resources in 1973, and the Energy and Resources Group, ERG, was born. ERG has become a premier place to do interdisciplinary energy research with eight core faculty, approximately 70 graduate students, and over 400 alumni. Ned was always very proud and supportive of what he had worked so hard to bring into being. Principally for this effort, he was awarded the Berkeley Citation in 1991."

-- Michael Lieberman, Allan Lichtenberg, and Theodore Van Duzer

In Memoriam Charles K. (Ned) Birdsall (1925-2012)

ERG's co-founder and first faculty John Holdren, and Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology shared in the ERG 40-year anniversary Big Event 2015 the earlier history of ERG and secrets to ERG’s success, including attracting “smart, interdisciplinary, passionate” students to the program. He continues to use these same secrets and “tricks of the trade” at the White House as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and chief science advisor to President Obama. An expanded version of the slides from his presentation is displayed below so you may learn more about the shaping of ERG program.

ERG was born with the gene of the interdisciplinary approach for pressing problem-solving. ERG's soul man and long time quality keeper professor Richard Norgaard once wrote a reflective piece on ERG's history and evolving of interdisciplinary shared study and research and the future challenges of such an approach, I was inspired by those thinking and translated it into Chinese (跨学科共享学习) for those who are interested. With the history, development, and challenge of ERG in mind, you might want to think if you really want to do interdisciplinary work. You may highlight your interdisciplinary experiences, especially success stories if you do want to pursue such a career.

Being interdisciplinary is hard, it is always easier said than done. Professor Daniel Kammen has an extremely useful piece on A Personal Introduction to Opportunities and Resources for Research and Activism in Energy and Environmental Science & Policy, in which he shared his career path and recommendations for a career in Energy and Environmental Science & Policy. A nice reading and I was inspired by his experiences when applying.

The best way to know a program is to see what its graduates do. I list below the ERGies that are changing the world (a few smart creatives that I got the opportunity to meet and to learn from their work, by no means a full list):

Academic/Research: Peter Alstone, Joshua Apte, Rob Bailis, Sam Borgeson, William Boyd, Adam R. Brandt, Zachary Burt, Zoë Chafe, Jaquelin Cochran, Joseph Eto, Steve Fetter, Kevin Fingerman, Matthias Fripp, Karina Garbesi, Peter Gleick, Anand Gopal, Brent M. Haddad, Barbara Haya, Garvin Heath, Edgar Hertwich, Nathan Hultman, Stacy Jackson, Josiah Johnston, Fritz Karhl, Amber Kerr, Nina Khanna, Ann Kinzig, Jonathan Koomey, Ana Mileva, James Nelson, Derek Lemoine, Joanna Lewis, Michael Maniates, Chris Marnay, Julian Marshall, Eric Martinot, Gregory Nemet, Dara O'Rourke, Annette Ostling, Amol Phadke, Simone Pulver, Malini Ranganathan, Deepak Rajagopal, Daniel Sanchez, Anne Short, Rebekah Shirley, Margaret Torn, Jim Williams, Ryan Wiser, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Emily Yeh

Public: James Fine, Andrew McAllister, Alexandra von Meier, Carla Peterman, David Puzey, Xiaodong Wang, Robert Weisenmiller

Private: Sam Arons, Jeremy Eddy, Deepa Shinde Lounsbury, Laura Schewel

You can find more from ERG Alumni, or Google them.

Good luck with your application, and I hope to see you in Berkeley and call you an ERGie. For those of you who is not as lucky as I was, it's OK, it is not an ERG position that makes an ERGie, it is the spirit of interdisciplinary makes you an ERGie type of person. Here is an example. Andrew Birch, Co-founder, and CEO of Sungevity, Inc, shared in BERC 2014 Energy Summit that he was an ERG reject, but I'm happier to see an entrepreneur with the soul of interdisciplinary thinking is making the world a better place to live.

Last updated: May 10, 2015