The Mission


The Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) works to build teams of researchers from different disciplines to see how new partnerships and new ways of thinking can solve some of the world’s most difficult energy and environmental challenges. We foster and facilitate interdisciplinary scholarship in collaboration with more than 500 extraordinary faculty, staff, and students as we advance the energy and environmental research missions of the University.

Penn State is a global research leader in many areas of profound importance to society. Our goal is to make real-world impacts and help translate data into knowledge and technical innovations. We believe that Penn State is uniquely equipped to address five major research themes, all requiring interdisciplinary problem solving and solution innovation.


New sources of power generation will undoubtedly be needed to meet skyrocketing world energy demand. Penn State researchers are positioned to lead efforts to support a scalable, innovative, and clean energy portfolio that meets the world’s need for reliable energy sources while considering the economic, environmental, health and climate effects of energy generation. These technologies include, but are not limited to: Biomass energy; coal utilization for fossil & renewable energy; global unconventional shales; solar photoconversion; and wind energy.
The International Energy Outlook 2013 projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040. The importance of energy efficiency and smart energy systems to help meet growing energy demand without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions – in the built environment, for transportation, and elsewhere – has never been greater. In addition to work on energy systems and their supporting infrastructure, Penn State has world class research on clean and efficient energy utilization strategies for engines, turbines, fuel cells, refrigeration, and many other devices. Implementation of new solutions has the potential to revolutionize the energy industry, but significant technical, social and systems-level analysis is required for such solutions to fulfill their promises. PSIEE will foster and build knowledge in smart energy systems by focusing on topics such as: CO2 capture, sequestration, and utilization, Energy storage, Smart infrastructure development (energy grid, transportation, buildings, etc.)
The National Academy of Sciences lists climate change, emerging infections and pollutant impacts as 3 of the 6 most important environmental challenges of this century. Dynamics of disease, environmental change, and gene-environment interactions have been affecting human, animal, and plant health for decades, but we are only now beginning to address these interactions in ways that can disrupt infectious disease vectors, enable precautionary design of chemicals and materials, and develop medical treatments to minimize negative impacts. Scientists are also identifying an increasing number of beneficial human/ environment interactions, including the micro biomes in our digestive systems and on our skin. Penn State researchers are beginning to gather around these important questions. IEE has already hosted a number of workshops, and plan to continue these and other activities, to facilitate team development and knowledge sharing in this emerging area.
Managing the risks of anthropogenic climate change poses significant challenges at the nexus of natural and social sciences, ethics, engineering, and mathematics. Penn State has the critical mass to become a world leader in this area. Realizing this potential, however, requires integrated assessment of system interactions leading to societal change. This will in turn require investments in mission-oriented basic research across the involved disciplines. Major initiatives within this theme include, but are not limited to: Climate variability and change; ecosystem productivity and biodiversity; stressors and resilience; food and water security; and polar science.
Population growth, development, and environmental changes put increasing stresses on water resources throughout the world. Water is at the nexus of the energy-environment relationship, and water scarcity involves the inherent trade-offs between production of food, goods, and services and the maintenance of natural ecosystems. Nutrients and carbon are circulated through water, terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere in biogeochemical cycles that have both local and global impacts. With humans already impacting well over 50% of the Earth’s biosphere, understanding and managing these coupled earth systems is essential for a sustainable future.