Why can’t a think tank also be a do tank?

peter fox-penner A renowned energy expert, Fox-Penner is heading up the University’s new Institute for Sustainable Energy, which will focus on electric industry transformation, global climate change, and smart, sustainable cities.

Since landing at BU last winter, renowned environmental expert Peter Fox-Penner has jumped in with both feet.

Fox-Penner heads up the new, University-wide Institute for Sustainable Energy. Based at the Questrom School of Business, the institute is turning a laser focus on electric industry transformation, global climate change, and smart, sustainable cities. Fox-Penner and his team are also developing energy research initiatives throughout the University and deepening connections among science, engineering, and management scholars with policy makers and corporations.

Fox-Penner, a vegan (and a big fan, naturally, of Earth, Wind & Fire), is the former chairman of the Brattle Group, where he advised major US power companies and grid operators, government agencies, and international clients on electric power and environmental policy issues. He is the author of Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities (Island Press, 2010), and his research has been widely cited, including in a Supreme Court decision.

Sustainability-minded students are also finding a home at the institute, which comprises 40 faculty members from 6 BU colleges. Its creation was coordinated with the expansion of the MBA concentration in energy and environmental sustainability at the Questrom School of Business, the master’s program in environmental policy at the College of Arts & Sciences, the master’s programs in city planning and urban affairs and graduate certificate in applied sustainability at Metropolitan College, College of Engineering courses on sustainability, and other academic programs.


So far, the Campaign for Boston University has created 71 named professorships, which are aimed at both attracting new talent to BU and cultivating the brightest young faculty already on campus. Below are a few of this year’s awardees:

This year’s Peter Paul Career Development Professorships, given annually to promising junior educators emerging as leaders in their fields, were awarded to Jennifer Talbot, assistant professor of biology; Sam Ling, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences; Elizabeth Rouse, assistant professor of organizational behavior; and Angela Robertson Bazzi, assistant professor of community health sciences.

International studies assistant professor Julie Klinger was awarded the East Asia Studies Career Development Professorship, which supports junior faculty whose research is specific to East Asia.

Neil Ganem, a pharmacology assistant professor, was awarded the first Aram V. Chobanian Assistant Professorship, which recognizes outstanding junior faculty in the School of Medicine.

Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Brian Kulis was awarded the inaugural Peter J. Levine Career Development Professorship, which supports rising junior faculty in the electrical & computer engineering department.

The institute has its sights fixed beyond Comm Ave, too. In an effort to inform Massachusetts state legislation on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency, Fox-Penner testified before the state senate’s Oversight Committee on Global Warming. The team is also working with the City of Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

“We view ourselves not just as a research center,” says Fox-Penner, “but as a think and do tank.”