Connecting with Energy

For the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC), the word “collaborative” is key. The graduate-student-led organization brings together people across campus — in the sciences, business, law, and policy — to address pressing energy and natural resource issues. BERC also helps to link the Berkeley campus to other professionals working in these areas.

“A major global problem has to be addressed in an interdisciplinary way,” says Asher Burns Burg, M.B.A. ’11 and BERC’s co-president. “BERC connects all of these incredible people in research, policy, and business around energy. We tap into their ideas and creativity. Networking and connections, especially at the graduate level, are important to advancing your career, personal growth, and thinking.”

Since its founding in 2005, BERC has become one of Berkeley’s most active student organizations. Its leadership team alone represents 13 campus colleges and programs, and its flagship event — an annual energy symposium — has attracted more than 700 attendees.

“Students and faculty across the institution bring cutting-edge research to the event,” says Burns Burg. “Business, venture capital, and policy people can have a conversation around new research and ideas to commercialize solar, wind, biofuels, and other energy technologies.”

Burns Burg’s co-president, Applied Science and Technology Ph.D. student Sebastien Lounis, is among the researchers who have benefited from BERC connections. Another BERC forum, the Idea Lab, sparked his current solar energy research.

Lounis is the first Ph.D. student and scientist to lead the organization. He says, “BERC gives Ph.D. students a connection to other issues related to energy and resources. You can see how the conservation, social, and political issues affect your lab.”

The co-presidents want BERC to be what Burns Burg

describes as “the best collaborative energy group on a college campus.” He says, “We want to improve our existing offerings and extend the access and reach of the organization.”
Lounis adds, “Most important to our success is to absorb the community and build on our connections.”

Promoting Big Ideas in Small Science

Nanoscale science may involve the smallest of dimensions, but graduate students in Berkeley’s Nanotechnology Club have big ambitions. Club president and physics graduate student Anthony Kwong wants his group to be the “go-to” organization for information about nanotechnology resources at Berkeley and throughout the Bay Area. He also wants to increase the club’s impact on members and contributions to Berkeley’s leadership in nanotechnology.

“We want to familiarize more people with nanotechnology and get them involved in the latest and cutting-edge technology,” says Kwong.

Events are the backbone of the club’s strategy to encourage science, engineering, and business graduate students and alumni to share knowledge and entrepreneurial opportunities. The annual Nanotechnology Forum is the group’s signature program, drawing international speakers and more than 300 attendees. This event — in addition to other speaker presentations, industry partnerships, and visits to area labs — helps members make connections that can lead to research positions and collaborations.

“We’re a big group with a lot of interests,” says Kwong. “People are excited to come.”

As a result, the club’s reach extends to nearly all of Berkeley’s science-related departments as well as the Haas School of Business. Kwong notes the importance of the ties between science and business, saying, “It’s beneficial to those in science to have speakers come in to talk about how to promote and sell your ideas.”

This approach has proven successful. Since its start in 2004, Kwong says, the Nanotechnology Club has helped a number of scientists create and fund businesses.

Highlighting Berkeley Privacy Research

When the Future for Privacy Forum looked for the most relevant and timely scholarship on current and emerging privacy issues, it turned to Berkeley. Researchers with campus connections contributed to four of the six papers selected for the Washington, D.C., think tank’s new journal, Privacy Papers for Policy Makers. The publication highlights writing on privacy that the organization’s advisory board considered most useful to federal policy makers, based on the clear analysis, fresh approaches, and achievable solutions the authors presented.

Among those featured in the inaugural issue was School of Information Ph.D. student Jennifer King, whose work shared the publication’s pages with an article co-authored by her faculty advisor, Deirdre Mulligan, and two others co-authored by 2003 alumnus Alessandro Acquisti.

“It’s exciting because of the other people selected,” says King. “These are other folks whose work I really respect. It’s very complimentary to see my name next to theirs.”

King co-authored a paper titled “How Different Are Young Adults from Older Adults When It Comes to Information Privacy Attitudes and Policies?” Based on a nationally representative survey of 18- to 24-year-olds, she determined the two groups largely agree that personal information should remain private, even if the online behavior of younger people might suggest otherwise. King says, “I was surprised that there wasn’t a difference, but you can’t say that young adults don’t care about privacy online. There’s a lot more under the surface.”

Though her findings show media reports about privacy attitudes are inaccurate, King welcomes the attention to the issue. She says, “I was looking at privacy before there was social media. Having people sharing more information online has made it more exciting.”

— Amy DerBedrosian (Originally published in The Graduate, Spring 2011)