Café X with Dr. Jay Gore: McMaster Engineering rises to the Global Energy Challenge

March 27, 2014
by Deborah McIvor

Engineers and non-engineers alike gathered on campus to explore a ‘hot’ topic on Thursday, March 27th with special guest, Dr. Jay P. Gore of Purdue University. As part of the Faculty’s Café X series, Purdue’s Reilly University Chair Professor in Mechanical Engineering shared his expertise and insights on “The Global Energy Grand Challenge” with Dean Ishwar Puri and a very attentive audience.

From his discussion of environmental conditions around the globe to that of a transition to sustainability through the continued development of renewable resources, Dr. Gore demonstrated his passion for his main research areas: combustion, energy utilization, thermodynamics and bioengineering. However, it was his interest in global policies that really drove the conversation.

“Data can divide people around the world on the topic of ‘global warming’,” said Gore. “Depending on where and when you look, the globe can appear to be getting hotter but also getting colder.”

When we consider the grand challenges of increasing populations, increasing energy use and heat generation, ten out of ten indicators show we are moving in a direction where the atmosphere, water and earth is being directly affected. Dr. Gore discussed the need to inform and educate the world’s communities, and he articulated the fundamental importance of scientific and technological innovations to accelerate a transition to sustainability.

Dr. Gore asserted that countries must establish agreement on policies of energy and resource use. He also suggested we should add to our current energy grid using biological, nuclear or solar sources. He presented facts about our changing climate with its wildly fluctuating temperatures, and then added a truism that as global citizens, “we don’t have a choice but to be optimistic and find solutions together”.

When asked by a member of the audience what he defines as ‘sustainability’, Gore said that although he feels there is not one precise definition, he is inclined to view it as “a lack of departure from a steady state”. He referred to this description in the context of shifting coastal lines, changing ocean levels and salinity as well as an ability to cultivate food in a given area. With regard to environmental accountability, Gore focused on the need for balance.

“Those who benefit from the use of the planet’s natural resources have a responsibility to invest in the future renewal and proper management of those resources,” said Gore.

Dr. Gore was pleased to see a number of engineering students in the audience and when asked by the dean about his career path, he shared a few personal tips. He assured the students it is okay to not know where you are going at every step in your life. He pursued various occupations in the breaks he took between pursuing his academic degrees and believes it is valuable to explore various paths as you develop your life plan.

 


Dr. Jay Gore and Dr. Ishwar Puri.  Photo: Deborah McIvor.
A captive Café X audience.  Photo: Deborah McIvor.

 

Fourth-year electrical and biomedical engineering student, Brandon Tyler, shared one of his ‘take-aways’ from Dr. Gore’s presentation. He felt that there was a theme around global accountability and collaboration and was reminded of the possibilities for society moving forward.

“Countries that have already gone through their early development process and become industrialized should share lessons learned with countries that are just starting that process. Not only should we help them through the process, it is essential to incentivize these countries to be more responsible than perhaps we were during our development,” said Tyler. “The overall progression of society should ideally work toward a more sustainable way of producing and using energy.”

Dean Puri asked whether Dr. Gore had any comments on the biggest strengths Canada brings to the energy industry. Gore had a very positive response, saying our country’s contributions are tremendous, both in terms of natural resources and in the newly discovered processes being developed by Canadian companies and Universities. He mentioned our hydroelectric power stations in Niagara Falls and the great contribution of CANDU to energy conservation. And delightfully, when asked how we at Canadian Universities could improve and remain leaders in the energy field, Dr. Gore smiled widely and had only one comment.

“After my visit and tour of McMaster’s research facilities and labs today, I am very impressed.”