The Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, a new undergraduate dual-degree program, has been created with the help of a $13.6-million donation from 1950 College graduate and former Penn Board of Trustees Chairman Roy Vagelos and his wife, Diana.
The program — a joint venture between the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science — will admit around 25 students interested in alternative energy research.
VIPER applicants will be asked to write an additional essay for Penn’s supplement to the Common Application, explaining why they are interested in this field.
Though VIPER directors are still “defining the nuts and bolts of the program,” they are working with the Admissions Office to recruit students, program Co-Director and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering professor John Vohs said.
The program will delve into the production and use of alternative energy. Students will be involved in research through paid summer internships, senior capstone projects and Pennergy — Penn’s Center for Energy Innovation.
“There are numerous faculty here at Penn that have research programs that are addressing many aspects of this program, so it is natural for us to want to get undergraduates involved in this exciting area of research,” Vohs wrote in an email.
Information about VIPER became available to students in June, when the program launched a web page. In addition, it has been included in two of the Admissions Office’s main publications.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the Admissions Office has also been alerting prospective students to the new program through email.
Interested students are being referred to Vohs and program Co-Director and Chemistry professor Andrew Rappe.
VIPER is an example of “how Penn’s schools, departments and faculty integrate knowledge across traditional academic boundaries,” Furda wrote in an email.
The Engineering School currently offers a minor in Energy and Sustainability, but VIPER hopes to expand the program.
Vohs credits much of VIPER’s creation to Roy Vagelos, who “recognized the importance of developing new approaches to energy conversion and realized that in order to do this we are going to need a new generation of scientists and engineers.”
High-school senior Brent Stone, who attends University School in Florida, is planning to apply to Penn for biophysics. Although he is currently not considering VIPER, he said that the program “shows Penn’s commitment to attract very smart minds and to research future endeavors.”
In the past, Roy and Diana Vagelos have donated money to found the Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences and the Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, which enrolled their inaugural classes in 1997 and 2006, respectively.
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