New Program
for Energy VIPERs

Among American undergraduates, it is a time-honored academic divide: there are liberal-arts students and there are engineers-in-training, and never the twain shall meet—in the lab or lecture hall, at least. Emeritus trustee P. Roy Vagelos C’50 Hon’99 and his wife, Diana, aim to change that arrangement with a new dual-degree program focusing on alternative energy. With a gift of $13.6 million, the longtime Penn benefactors have established the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), an innovative undergraduate program to be offered by the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“This is an area that is going to be extremely important for our country and the world,” said Vagelos, a past CEO of Merck. “Our country’s use of oil and coal damages our environment, and the dependence on other countries for oil puts the United States in a very difficult economic position.” He added: “Attractive and exciting programs in the sciences can give undergraduates entrée into a world that is almost unlimited. For those trained in the sciences and engineering, energy research is going to be a source of great careers for the next 25 to 50 years.”

Students in the VIPER program—which has begun recruiting and will enroll its first freshman class in September—will work closely with faculty affiliated with the Penn Center for Energy Innovation, who will serve as mentors and involve the students in cutting-edge research on topics such as solar energy, chemical fuels, and energy-efficient electronics and materials. The curriculum will also feature specialized seminars and internship opportunities with energy-related laboratories. As signaled by the involvement of both schools, the pursuit of alternative energy solutions poses challenges ranging from the scientific and technical to the economic and societal.

The Vageloses have made a considerable mark on science education at Penn. Their past gifts to the University include the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, the Vagelos Endowed Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, the Vagelos Science Challenge Scholarship Award, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the Roy and Diana Vagelos Chair in Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

“Roy and Diana’s generosity is making Penn the school of choice for the very best students interested in science that addresses society’s critical needs, first in the life sciences and now, with this gift, in the physical sciences,” said SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell. “Combined with their substantial support for faculty and facilities, their impact on the future of science at Penn is truly immeasurable.”

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©2011 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/28/11