05/12/2011 03:27

Program to provide basic tools for careers in clean-tech.

Ariel University Center of Samaria will launch an undergraduate degree in Green Chemistry this fall, which aims to provide a strong foundation in the chemistry of renewable energy.

“There is a demand out there for people with a bachelor’s degree that will somehow make them part of the energy and environmental revolution that is taking place,” Dr. Alex Schechter, a senior lecturer in the department of biological chemistry, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“The fact that we’ve been able to address two of the major challenges [energy and environment] in this field is very important to people.”

The program will provide students the opportunity to specialize in clean-tech – in subjects such as environmental chemistry (ozone depletion, the effect of greenhouse gases, etc.), analytical methods of determining pollution levels in the environment, advanced laboratory experimentation and investigations into the relationship between energy and the environment. In addition to their classroom and laboratory work, students will also head outside on “ecological tours” of chemical plants and energy production centers.

By gaining knowledge about the chemical processes that transform renewable resources into useable energy, the students will be able to make instrumental contributions to the future of the clean-tech industry, whether fill entry level positions or continue studying at the graduate level, the department said in a statement.

“We are very specific – we deal with the analytical chemistry of contaminants, and how to offer a more green perspective on chemical reactions,” Schechter said. “What is most important is that we offer a better understanding of how energy is related to these [chemical reactions], how to conserve energy and how to improve the chemistry of a battery to make it more efficient and cheaper.

“That’s the work of a chemist. I think that there is no other program at the bachelor’s level that deals with this.”

The University of Haifa has a department of geography and environmental studies, while Tel Aviv University has the Porter School of Environmental Studies and Ben- Gurion University has a department of geological and environmental sciences – but none, as far as Schechter is aware, has a specifically green chemistry track for undergraduates.

Green Chemistry students at Ariel University Center will receive a degree in chemistry after three years of study, in which they learn to employ “chemistry as an environmental tool designed to curb the growth of ecological problems,” according to the department.

The students’ unique qualifications will enable them “to become integrated in the emergent clean-tech industry at warp speed,” the department said.

“I would expect a graduate with this degree to be qualified to work in the research and development industry, not at a very high level but at an intermediate level – with a firm concept of what’s important and what’s not,” Schechter said. “And this will provide them with the basic requirements to develop further into other areas.”

A graduate of the track has many options and might even choose to move on to business administration within the clean-tech industry, rather than strictly working in the scientific aspects of the field, Schechter added.

“We provide only the basics – things that will allow a basic entry level to the industry,” he said.

“Obviously, a person who would want to progress would have to take a master’s degree or even a doctorate.”

Schechter has several master’s and doctoral degree students of his own, who are developing research projects in both energy and environmental chemistry, he said.

While graduates of the bachelor’s track won’t similarly be able “to call themselves experts in a tiny area,” they will gain a basic but critical “understanding of the whole clean-tech industry,” something that the field is demanding in quite large numbers, according to Schechter.