Position title: ('08)
Phone: Posted Apr 2022.
Written by Muhammad Shayan
Scott Hackel (MS in Mechanical Engineering ’08) is driven by the mission to combat climate change via innovations. Working on new technologies and research methods coming up in the energy sector is his niche.
Scott currently works as the Director of Research and Innovation at Slipstream, a mission-driven nonprofit that seeks to deliver innovative solutions to energy challenges. A large share of Slipstream’s work involves testing new ideas and pushing them into the mainstream, including pushing energy efficiency at the residential, commercial, andindustrial scales and financing energy improvements for low energy customers. Most of Slipstream’s projects are funded by electric utilities and state and the federal governments.
Scott primarily works on applied research: adapting, testing, and demonstrating new technologies or interventions such as new building controls or a financial intervention in a supply chain. Scott’s team collects significant amounts of data in all these instances to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be further improved. Scott is enthusiastic about electrification — shifting households or buildings from end-use natural gas to electricity in the near future in the US.
Scott credits the EAP program with providing him a deep insight into the energy challenges and infrastructure. He entered the EAP with a strong technical background having completed a BS in Mechanical Engineering and pursuing an MS in Mechanical Engineering, but the EAP program helped him expand beyond the technical background and understand how different pieces of the puzzle come together to build the large energy infrastructure.
Speaking about the tools employed in his team’s research, Scott highlighted everything from sensors for data acquisition to statistical packages such as Stata and R. Slipstream has been slowlyshifting to R for analysis, something he predicts might happen in the larger industry too in the coming decade.
Scott’s advice to current students regarding job searching is to first understand the industry and their preferences. One needs to understand not only what industry problems one would like to work on (e.g. scaling renewable energy), but also what kind of work one likes to do day to day. A person inclined towards data analysis may not enjoy or even go as far in a position that requires them to produce policy briefs or spend much of their time managing project budgets, even if they are working in an organization of their choice.
The EAP certificate equips students with diverse skills meaning EAP graduates can work in varied settings ranging from pure policy work to program implementation in the field, and students should look to leverage those skills.
Scott understands that we have an urgent and tremendous challenge ahead in climate change, but he remains optimistic about the future of climate change mitigation. In his research developing various programmatic interventions at Slipstream, he has seen homeowners respond to energy efficiency interventions and businesses wanting to do the right thing, as well as the ever improving cost-effectiveness of new technologies. However, he acknowledges that incentives in the future we will need to find solutions and the right incentives to reach the many actors and parts of the market that do not consider or care about climate change at all. He feels we must continue to attract top talent to this challenge and continue working harder.