WUSTL gathers global leaders in India to explore sustainable energy access solutions and improving lives in developing nations

MAGEEP sponsors Fourth International Symposium on Energy and Environment: ACCESS Dec. 6-12

Washington University in St. Louis and its academic and corporate partners worldwide are putting research into action and leading a major initiative in Mumbai, India, Dec. 6-12 to address global energy and environmental solutions.

The WUSTL-led McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environmental Partnership (MAGEEP) — a consortium of 28 international universities — is convening in Mumbai for the Fourth International Symposium on Energy and Environment: ACCESS (Abundant Clean Cost-effective Energy Systems for Sustainability). The symposium is co-hosted by Washington University, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay (TISS).


“Every day billions of people are burning biomass to stay warm and prepare food,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “For these people, energy access is the dividing line between the haves and the have-nots. Our goal with this symposium is to bring university leaders, researchers, students and corporate partners together to discuss how to improve energy access in developing nations, while addressing the environmental and societal effects.”

The symposium will bring together leaders in the field to not only think of creative solutions to the world’s energy needs, but also to challenge these leaders to think differently about how these problems are solved. The symposium also will challenge students to be the next generation of leaders and keep working collaboratively to solve these issues.


“This symposium will bring renowned academic, industry and government leaders from around the world together to find ways to meet the needs of the nearly 3 billion people who do not have adequate access to clean water, air and energy or a good local environment,” says Pratim Biswas, PhD, chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at Washington University and the Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor.

“We know that by working together, we can address what are some of the most critical challenges facing our planet. We believe we have an opportunity and responsibility to the people of the world to work toward meeting these challenges,” he says.

Among the academic leaders at the conference include Wrighton and Devang Khakhar, director of IIT Bombay, and S. Parasuraman, director of TISS. Presidents and directors of five MAGEEP universities will join Wrighton, Khakhar and Parasuraman on the opening panel as well. Several dignitaries from India’s government will be in attendance at the opening session, along with the chairmen of the board of governors of both IIT Bombay and TISS and Sujeesh Krishnan, special advisor of the United Nations initiative Sustainable Energy For All.

Notable events of the symposium include:

  • the launch of SERIIUS (Solar Energy Research Institute for India and US), a $125 million effort funded by the governments of India and the United States and matching funds from industry;
  • launch of the MAGEEP Educational Network partnership, in which leaders from academia, government and industry will develop innovative collaborative energy and environmental educational programs;
  • creation of a global network to address carbon dioxide mitigation and clean coal technologies involving India, United States, China and Australia;
  • workshops and short courses addressing issues related to clean water and air and aerosol science and technology;
  • student programs and video competitions related to campus clean energy programs; and
  • a president and university leaders forum to highlight and launch new initiatives.

A key initiative will be related to development and utilization of solar energy. Through an environment of cooperation and innovation “without borders,” SERIIUS will develop and ready emerging and revolutionary solar electricity technologies — toward the long-term success of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Energy Mission and the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

The initiative also is backed by a new Solar Energy and Energy Storage (SEES) initiative at WUSTL. A key corporate sponsor is MEMC Electronic Materials Inc., which has provided more than $1.25 million to promote solar energy and energy storage research.

Another key transdisciplinary project is related to biomass use in rural areas. More than 3 billion people worldwide rely on biomass combustion for their cooking needs. Gautam Yadama, PhD, associate professor of social work at WUSTL’s Brown School; Mario Castro, MD, WUSTL professor of medicine and of pediatrics who specializes in treating pulmonary diseases; and Biswas will launch a National Institutes of Health-funded study to evaluate the use of clean-burning stoves in a field study in Rajasthan, India.

Using novel, state-of-the-art aerosol instruments deployed in the field for the first time, coupled with respiratory health measurements and systems dynamics approaches, they plan to unravel and determine approaches that will promote the use of cleaner biomass combusting stoves.


Yadama is getting the word out in other creative ways as well. He and photographer Mark Katzman traveled throughout India in the summer of 2012 and documented the plight of the rural poor in Portraits of the Energy Impoverished: Fires, Fuel, and the Fate of 3 Billion. The result is a collection of essays and photographs that tell an eye-opening, insightful story about energy access in the rural villages of India, where the hunt for safe, affordable energy is often a matter of life and death. Yadama will introduce his book at the symposium and moderate a panel discussion on a global overview of rural energy issues.The university is scaling up its India-related activities with more than 25 collaborative research projects under way with its partner universities in India. Several faculty in multiple disciplines are working with counterparts in India, and the plans are to create a framework for many more to work collaboratively with India-based partners. Corporate entities in India such as IL&FS Inc. are supporting programs in energy and environment; and the university plans to expand the relationships with other organizations in India.

After the symposium, WUSTL will hold a meeting of its International Advisory Council for Asia (IACA) Dec. 12-15 in New Delhi. The IACA assists university leaders in expanding the university’s global presence. More than 20 alumni, parents and friends — including prominent educators and business leaders throughout Asia — are expected to join university leadership at the meeting.

A representative from the U.S. Embassy in India will make a presentation, and panel discussions with key faculty members, deans and the directors of the partner universities will outline the plans for WUSTL-India collaborative activities.

The McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environment Partnership (MAGEEP) is a consortium of 28 premier universities from around the world, including WUSTL, which is working to advance energy, environmental and sustainability research and education. MAGEEP grew out of Washington University’s first McDonnell International Scholars Academy symposium in 2007. MAGEEP’s mission is to collectively identify and collaboratively tackle important global energy and environmental challenges in an integrated and holistic manner.

For more on MAGEEP, visit mageep.wustl.edu/

For more on the symposium, visit mageep.wustl.edu/Symposium2012

For more on WUSTL’s India activities: india.wustl.edu