New Energy Hub Will Offer Teaching and Research Resources, Collaboration Space

October 31, 2010

Tawnee Milko (MEM ’12) Communications Student Assistant

DURHAM, N.C. – A sleek new look awaits visitors who enter the Gross Chemistry Laboratory this fall. Over the past three months, the first floor of the building has been transformed into The Energy Hub, Duke University’s newest center for energy initiatives.

“We envision The Energy Hub serving as a crossroads for energy education, research, learning opportunities and outreach for students across campus,” says Lincoln Pratson, director of The Energy Hub and chair of the Nicholas School’s Energy and Environment track, one of eight Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree concentrations offered at the school.

Funded completely by the Provost’s Office, the new $1.5 million hub will provide a place for faculty, PhDs, post-docs, and research associates across the university to engage with students interested in the energy field, and vice versa.

For resourceful students who tap into The Energy Hub’s resources, the only limitation is “imagination,” Pratson says.

The Energy Hub’s focal point is a central gathering area, equipped to accommodate large or small groups and foster research and outreach collaborations, or possibly even business startups. Other major elements of the hub include classrooms, a teaching lab that will have prototype technology for different energy systems, two conference rooms and a faculty staging area. Future resources may include an annual speaker series, workshops, and an energy literature library and web database.

An understanding of sustainable energy systems, renewable energy, and energy efficiency-improving technologies is becoming increasingly important in the public and private sector, says Pratson, professor of energy and the environment in the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Interest in the Energy and the Environment concentration has surged recently, he notes. It is now the Nicholas School’s fastest growing and largest MEM concentration.

Pratson has been working with Provost Peter Lange,  Nicholas School Dean William L. Chameides and other university administrators since last summer to develop and finance a broader, universitywide energy initiative that would span all relevant disciplines and build upon Duke’s strength in interdisciplinary studies.

“We wanted to provide a cross-school educational initiative in energy and the environment,” he says. “Energy is too big a topic to be owned by any one school.”

Gross Chemistry’s central location between the Nicholas School, Fuqua School of Business, Duke School of Law, Sanford School of Public Policy, and other graduate programs made the building a particularly attractive location for the interdisciplinary hub.

Pratson has met with the leaders of key energy clubs across campus and encouraged them to view The Energy Hub as an extension of their respective programs, available to use for conferences, speakers and club meetings.

The Research Triangle Energy Consortium has expressed interest in holding events in the hub,  he says, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is already offering students additional ways to get involved in energy-based projects through the hub.

Pratson also hopes to collaborate with Duke’s Facilities Management staff in coming months to help students understand how university energy operations work.

Due to the speed at which The Energy Hub was approved and implemented, Pratson says further information about it is still being developed; the hub itself will not be fully outfitted until the end of the semester.  Still in the works are a website, more furniture, breakout areas with conference tables and soft walls, and several computer displays showing energy news of the day.  Pratson is in the process of hiring a hub administrator to assist with facility and website management.

For more information about The Energy Hub click here or contact Pratson at