Letter to the editor: Wind energy editorial should have investigated costs, benefits of new Ph.D.

Sarani Rangarajan

While I cannot claim to be privy to all the reasons why the Faculty Senate chose to approve a Ph.D. program in wind energy — this kind of information is what I look to the Iowa State Daily to provide — I can, even off the top of my head, think of many reasons why it is an excellent idea.

1. It capitalizes on our strengths and helps us attract a certain kind of researcher/graduate student: the kind that is specifically interested in wind energy (instead of, say, recruiting an aerospace engineering researcher who falls into turbine flow research). This makes us a better wind energy program.

2. We have a good wind energy program; it makes sense to emphasize that. Good advertising, for lack of a better way to put it.

3. I have spent some time in a graduate interdisciplinary program. From my experience, I can tell you collaboration between laboratories and departments becomes far, far simpler for students if they are part of such a program.

The biggest strength of the wind energy doctoral program is the ability to do cross-disciplinary research (not that you couldn’t before). Consider someone who wants to do science policy and engineering, or political science and communication (in the field of wind energy). Where is the major professor? What kind of committee? What about departmental requirements? A program, provided there are enough students to take it up, pays for itself many times over because it cuts through so much red tape, and not just for students. Faculty will likely find it easier to establish and maintain interdepartmental research relationships within the context of such a program.

And yes, cutting across those department borders is not easy.

Don’t believe me? Ask someone who is actually involved in the program; perhaps students who might benefit or faculty who will participate. Ask anyone in some other interdisciplinary program on campus. Investigate the costs and benefits before forming an opinion and expressing it. If you investigate, share that information in an editorial. That’s what I expect from Iowa State Daily. I’m disappointed more thought did not go into that editorial. If you were going to focus on the costs, I would have expected to see more specificity in your critique. Why do I not?