Research at the Energy Institute

students wearing goggles working with tubes and beakers

One of the hallmarks of a Western Washington University education is student involvement in research. Across the university, faculty from engineering and the physical and social sciences are doing energy-related research. As academic offerings grow within the Institute, students across campus will assist faculty in research, from proposals to completion.

Energy research at WWU ranges from technical fields like engineering and chemistry to social science fields like economics and environmental planning. For instance, in Western's Advanced Material Sciences and Engineering Center, Dr. David Patrick is leading a team of graduate and undergraduate researchers to develop a high-efficiency, transparent solar photovoltaic window technology. In response to the growing need for clean energy assessment tools, energy economics faculty Sharon Shewmake and Reid Dorsey-Palmateer are working with students to study the to study the impact of energy efficiency upgrades on residential housing prices.

By bringing faculty with diverse disciplinary specializations together around a shared interest in energy issues, the Institute for Energy Studies is uniquely situated to stimulate research collaborations across the colleges. We are also working with the WWU Facilities Management team to develop student research and experiential learning on energy efficiency in the built environment, using WWU campus buildings as a living laboratory.

Research Examples

Chemistry of algal biofuels, Chemistry (O’Neil)

Biomass to transportation fuels, Chemistry (Bussell, Gilbertson)

Biofuel utilization in vehicles, Engineering Technology (Leonhardt, Fleishman)

Solar Thermal, AMSEC (Kowalczyk)

CO2 to fuels, Chemistry (Gilbertson)

Ultralow sulfur fuels, Chemistry (Bussell)

Vehicle Design, Engineering Technology (Leonhardt)

Consumer Response to Energy Efficiency Labels, Economics (Shewmake, Dorsey-Palmateer)

Glaciation research, Geology (Clark)

Carbon cycling, Environmental Sciences (Bunn)

Solar/Wind Powered Forecasting, Physics (Johnson)

Solar Concentrators for Photovoltaics, AMSEC (Patrick, Gilbertson, Leger, Johnson, McDowell)

Photovoltaic materials, Physics (Leger)

Theory of electronic excitation, Chemistry (Kowalczyk)

Environmental valuation, Economics (Hagen)

Transportation Economics, Economics (Shewmake)

Economics of Wind Power, Economics (Dorsey-Palmateer)

Economics of Energy Efficiency in Housing Markets, Economics (Shewmake, Dorsey-Palmateer)

Carbon credit markets, Environmental Studies (Abel)

Impacts of carbon tax, Economics (Dorsey-Palmateer)


Net energy and life cycle analysis, Environmental Sciences (Barnhart)

Electrification of building energy, Environmental Sciences (Sheikh)