Highlights from the Institute of Energy and the Environment's 60-year history

  • Institute for Research on Land and Water Resources established

    The Institute for Research on Land and Water Resources was an early effort that “served as a point of contact for agencies, organizations and individuals seeking assistance from the University and provided an institutional framework for the conduct of intercollege research programs.” It started with 31 affiliated faculty and staff. 

    John Frey was the inaugural director.

    John Frey
  • Penn State Living Filter created

    Originally known as the the Waste Water Renovation and Conservation Project, Penn State's "Living Filter" is a year-round spray irrigation system that recycles the University's treated effluent. It was supported by the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Institute for Land and Water Resources.

  • Penn State designated official educational institution to carry out Water Resources Act of 1964

    Governor William W. Scranton designated Penn State as the official educational institution in the commonwealth to carry out the provisions of the Water Resources Act of 1964. The Institute for Research on Land and Water Resources was then named to coordinate water research activities in Pennsylvania. 

    William Scranton
  • Land and Water Research Building constructed

    When the Land and Water Research Building was completed, it housed the offices and labs of the Institute for Land and Water Resources. Today, it remains the home of the Institute of Energy and the Environment.

    Land and Water Research Building construction
  • Archie J. McDonnell becomes director
  • Environmental Resources Research Institute created

    The Institute for Research on Land and Water Resources merges with Center for Air Environment Studies to form the Environmental Resources Research Institute. ERRI had eight centers associated with it: Pennsylvania Center for Water Resources Research; Center for Air Environment Studies; National Mine Land Reclamation Center; Emissions Reduction Research Center; Center for Bioremediation and Detoxification; Center for BioDiversity; Office for Remote Sensing of Earth Resources; and Office of Hazardous and Toxic Waste Management.

  • Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access created
    PASDA aerial shot

    PASDA, Pennsylvania's official public access open geospatial data portal, is a cooperative project of the Governor's Office of Administration, Office for Information Technology, and IEE.

  • Environmental Consortium established

    In 2000, the Environmental Consortium was created, taking the place of ERRI. It aimed to “encourage spirited interdisciplinary cooperation” and was “envisioned to be a dynamic, tightly coupled, intercampus network of expertise and infrastructure recognized worldwide as a seedbed of knowledge and ingenuity needed to deal with environmental challenges along a continuum from improving national security to achieving long-term sustainability.”

  • William Easterling becomes director
  • Penn State Institutes of the Environment established

    The Penn State Institutes of the Environment updated its structure and modeled itself after the National Institutes of Health, where a central institute oversaw a network of related institutes. This also begins the co-funded faculty program with thirty environmental researchers.

  • Environmental Inquiry minor offered

    The intercollege minor is designed for students across the disciplines who wish to prepare for addressing environmental issues or problems as professionals or citizens.

  • Colloquium on the Environment begins

    The Colloquium on the Environment begins bringing national environmental leaders to Penn State. While administered by IEE, the colloquium brought 15 speakers to University Park. In 2023, the colloquium transferred to Penn State Sustainability.

  • Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment created

    Energy is added to the institute's portfolio, and it becomes the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. Twenty-four additional co-funded faculty members focused on energy research join the institute.

  • Tom Richard becomes director
  • Dudeks’ gift $2.5 million to IEE, other units

    Frank and Janet Glasgow Dudek update their estate plan, pledging an additional $2.3 million for a total of $4.8 million. An additional bequest to the Institutes of Energy and the Environment will be used to encourage cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary energy and environmental research and to engage local, state, federal and international partners in research efforts.

    land and water research building
  • Sustainability Institute established

    The Institute was administratively managed by the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

    Sustainability Institute


  • Science Communication Program started

    The Science Communication Program offers resources to Penn State researchers who would like to improve their science communication skills.

    Science Communication Program
  • Energy and Environmental Sustainability Laboratories launched


  • Energy Days started
    Energy Days, a two-day conference focused on creating new partnerships to address key research needs and provide innovative solutions to energy challenges, is created.
    Energy Days crowd
  • Institute name simplified

    In 2017, “Penn State” was dropped from the official name, creating the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

  • Global Building Network launched
    Penn State partners with United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to create Global Building Network, a project aimed at making buildings more sustainable, more energy-efficient, and healthier for people.
    Barron signing UNECE agreement
  • Penn State Waste Stream Task Force convened

    The Penn State Waste Stream Task Force is convened and charged with creating responsible goals and principles to guide the University’s procurement, operational, and solid waste management decisions.

  • Research to Action conference hosted at Penn State

    Penn State and IEE partner with Project Drawdown to host the Research to Action conference, the first international conference on climate change and the science of drawdown.

    Research to Action
  • del Papas support IEE through estate gift

    Penn State alumnus Ron del Papa and his wife Kathy have created an estate gift that will benefit the Institutes of Energy and the Environment and improve the lives of people locally and globally through impactful energy and environmental research and application.

    Nittany Lion Shrine


  • Energy and Environment Lab sculpture installed

    According to Talley Fisher (pictured on right), Senior Research Artist, the Energy and Environment Lab installation represents “the complex research IEE faculty and researchers are performing. Each theme reveals aspects of the research through patterns, materials, and symbology.”

    EEL sculpture artists pose in front of installation


  • Bruce Logan becomes director
  • Climate Solutions Symposium held

    The first two-day Climate Solutions Symposium featured more than 60 experts from academia, industry, government, and community organizations.

    Solutions for a Just and Thriving Planet
  • Institute renamed to reflect holistic approach to energy, environmental research
    One Institute | One World

    The renamed Institute of Energy and the Environment (formerly the Institutes of Energy and the Environment) was rebranded to better communicate its structure and collaborative approach to solving energy and environmental challenges.

  • Climate Consortium launched
    We Are statue on sunny fall day

    The Penn State Climate Consortium was established to meet the mounting challenges related to climate change. It is a collective of internal and external partners who are committed to identifying, creating and implementing research-based solutions to climate change.