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SISE 2016 at University of Illinois at Chicago

November 2, 2016

My Teammates for the Group project

About Me

Saad Qasim is a MS student in Energy Systems as a Fulbright Scholar from Karachi, Pakistan. He did his Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and then worked for 5 years as an SAP Consultant for leading power utilities in Pakistan and Lebanon. He is also the Vice President of Student Relations for the Energy Systems Society at Northeastern and the 2016 Spark Fellow for Boston.

SISE 2016 at University of Illinois at Chicago

This summer I was accepted into the 6th annual SISE (Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy) hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The mission of this program is to promote the inclusion of basic energy science research into entrepreneurial endeavors by future scientists, business leaders, and policy makers. It aims to accomplish this by a 12-day intensive program where undergraduates and graduates as well as professionals come together to work and learn about various aspects of clean energy and sustainability. They have a tagline: “Best nerds on Earth”.

I learned about SISE on, a very useful website for finding opportunities for students or graduates.

Before attending SISE, I had to first get some time off from work approved by my supervisor at my co-op at Eversource Energy. Once that was done, it was finally time to start my SISE experience! Since it was my first time visiting Chicago, I made a list of places to see and landmarks to visit. Despite a hectic and rigorous schedule, I actually found time to see most of them!

The major chunk of the program was spent in the classroom, attending lectures by renowned personalities and scientists, many of whom had done breakthrough research in energy and sustainability related fields.

Quick pic during one of the sessions!

There was a lot of emphasis on group work, forming teams with different people (often at random) and networking with other participants. This ensured that we all knew each other’s names and had made lots of friends by the third day.

For any student, it can be a bit intimidating to meet senior scientists or renowned businessmen face to face, but the organizers made it very easy to network and chat with all the speakers and helped us create lasting connections with each other.

Field Visits

Gate pass for ANL

One of the highlights of the program was a visit to the famous Argonne National Lab, which has a long history of cutting edge research in energy and physics. At the ANL, I got to see the Electric Cars testing facility, part of the Advanced Photon Source lab and parts of the huge particle accelerator. For an engineer, it was very exciting! 

Besides the ANL, we visited a shared space for startups in Goose Island, an Energy Community Meetup in downtown Chicago and had a BBQ along with student volunteers from the local YMCA.

At the rooftop of the Advanced
Photon Source Building, ANL

Group Challenge Project

Much of our time outside the classroom was spent in researching and designing a system or business model to solve a sustainability problem related to the conference theme of “Water Energy Nexus”. This Challenge Project culminated in a 15 min presentation in front of our peers and alumni as well as a panel of judges. Our team won third prize for our idea of Crystal Ball (a water quality monitoring solution for the U.S.).

For more info about SISE: