Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering will receive an anonymous gift of $1.3 million from an engineering alumnus and his wife from the San Francisco Bay Area to help create some of the country’s top students in the field of renewable energy. "This is the first substantial donation to our energy program following our successes in the 2007 and2009 Solar Decathlon competitions," says Godfrey Mungal, Santa Clara University School of Engineering dean. "It comes at a very exciting time for us as we begin celebrating our 100th anniversary and a century of engineering excellence here at Santa Clara University. Energy is a prime focus for us as we move into the next 100 years of educating leaders of integrity to solve the world’s most challenging problems and we are so appreciative of this gift that will, we hope, be just the start of more support for this important program."

The donation will help the school launch the Latimer Engineering Scholars Program in the 2011-12 academic year to support teaching and research in sustainable energy. electrical engineering professor and Latimer Engineering Scholars program director Tim Healy will begin working with incoming freshman engineering students. He will select five students and assign them laboratory projects, provide education on renewable energy, focusing initially on photovoltaics (PV) and then expanding to other areas as the program grows. Each student will also receive stipends for working in the lab and on the projects. With each successive quarter, Healy says the students will receive new education, projects, and materials as long as they are successful. The projects will also become increasingly sophisticated after each year, and as the students move up in rank, they will be able to mentor the younger students.

"The objective is to develop highly-educated undergraduate students in PV and renewable energy," says Healy. "We hope to have among the best educated students in the country in this area."

Healy also envisions that the program will develop strong personal contacts with companies and create internship opportunities for the scholars during the summer.

"After students spend a year or two in the program, they will be able to pursue internships in places such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, solar technology companies like SunPower Corporation in San Jose, Calif., and perhaps one of the light-emitting-diode companies in the Silicon Valley," says Healy.

Healy and his colleague Professor Samiha Mourad co-founded the Latimer Engineering Lab at Santa Clara University in 2008 to teach undergraduate and graduate students about renewable energy. Faculty also use the lab for SCU’s annual Summer Engineering Seminars to give high school students a chance to explore engineering.