Riedinger, former director of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, began the Energy Science and Engineering (ESE) program in 2010.
The program maximizes UT’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the US Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory.
The interdisciplinary slate of ESE courses allows students to study a combination of energy production, distribution, consumption, policy, entrepreneurship, and economics.
“These are tools the students will need as leaders in their fields,” Riedinger says.
“I tell them the real world is interdisciplinary,” he explains. “Our program has energy studies as its core but also includes students and faculty in everything from materials science to climate studies. It’s that wide-ranging nature that makes the program as strong as it is.”
The ESE program boasts more than 120 students, drawn from Ivy League schools, public research universities, and international institutes.
Riedinger hooded nine PhD graduates from the ESE program in December 2016. Add to that 13 previous graduates, and the total has already hit 22.
In 2017, the Bredesen Center launched another interdisciplinary PhD program—this one in the rapidly advancing field of data science and engineering, or “big data.”
Students in the Data Science and Engineering (DSE) program tackle unique data-source challenges in science, engineering, and health care using some of the world’s most powerful computing and data science platforms.
It is the only program in the United States to pair a university and national laboratory and one of just three such big data doctoral programs in the nation.
Associate Professor Russell Zaretzki, of the Haslam College of Business, heads the DSE program.
After 47 years as a member of UT’s physics faculty, Riedinger finally decided to retire in January 2019. However, he still plans to return to campus each fall to teach introductory energy science and technology courses.
He says with a smile that it will be up to the next director of the Bredesen Center, Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing Suresh Babu, to determine if there’s a need for a third interdisciplinary PhD program between UT and ORNL.