The energy sector lost a giant this week in the passing of Dr. George Crabtree, who was one of the advisors and mentors for the University of Illinois’ Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (UIC-SISE), which I attended in 2014. George led the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR, pronounced “J-Caesar,” or “SEE-zər”) at Argonne National Lab. I also had the pleasure of hosting George on our ill-fated Best Nerds podcast a couple of years ago, where we talked about– what else but- the power grid.
SISE (which now goes by SICE, Summer Institute for Climate and the Environment) was my first introduction to ever so many things sustainability. The two-week intensive program covered everything ranging from a crash course in “how does the power grid even work” to complex and theoretical concepts about demand side management, novel and experimental technologies, and a group of some great humans from all around the world, many of whom I still actively keep in touch with. Wrote Thomas Aláan, the longtime program manager of SISE, to the hundreds of global alumni of the program in an e-mail:
When he first started at the university, one of his onboarding requirements was seed money to start SISE. He ensured his calendar was clear of other work—everyone knew those 1.5-2 weeks were untouchable, and given his calendar and commitments that was a huge deal. He would bring up the program unprompted in literally every conversation we ever had. He would randomly send emails about ideas for speakers or topics or projects anywhere from 6AM-1AM. One of his most admirable traits was that he was infectiously curious about everything, and being at SISE fed into that curiosity—I think he enjoyed being a student along with you […] Of all the cool things George did, I can say without a doubt that SISE was one of his favorites. Hands down.
I am inspired by George’s work– and his extracurricular volunteerism which, as Aláan mentions in the quote above, seems to have been just as much about him learning through this kind of engagement and facilitation as it was about him teaching- to continue to plumb the depths of my own curiosity. I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to meet and work with George and the rest of SISE, and I think we can learn so much from his career and his work about the value of collaboration in realizing a vision of a greener, more sustainable, more equitable, and more scientifically curious society.