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Energy, Ethics, and Engineering at IGERT


Members of the Sustainable Energy and the Smart Grid IGERT at The University of Texas at Austin kicked off their 2013-14 weekly meetings with a conversation with Dr. Tom Edgar, PI for the program and long standing professor of Chemical Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering and newly appointed Interim Director of the Energy Institute. Following Dr. Edgar’s presentation in week one, week two helped set the tone for the year with IGERT as trainees and affiliates participated in an Ethics Seminar presented by staff from the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLEE). The two-hour session included a viewing of Incident at Morales coupled with group discussions of ethical questions and decisions that were made by company members building a production plant in Mexico. Excellent observations and some lively conversations were generated as the IGERT trainees and affiliates deconstructed engineers’ and supervisors’ decisions as well as company culture that led to a tragic ending at the new plant. One student stated, “This really happens in real life, sometimes we are expected to make decisions between costs and quality; this is when we as engineers have to push back and assure safety is the ultimate standard for our decisions.”