The Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (SISE) is a two-week "boot camp" for future decision makers eager to join the sustainability and energy revolution happening around the globe. It's been held annually in August since 2011 and boasts 300 alumni.

Fellows (or SISE'ers) from around the country join SISE at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Fellows are chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants. Diversity is one of the strongest features of the program, with SISE'ers representing a broad range of racial and ethnic identities, socio-economic backgrounds, academic professions and levels, sexual and gender identities, and institutional and national affiliations. They live together. They research together. They become a part of our extended "SISE family."

During weekdays, SISE'ers spend about eight hours of their day in high-level talks, visiting sites, and networking. During evenings and weekends, they work collaboratively on a research project and find time to explore the city of Chicago!


The above stats contain data collected between 2011-2017.


Program Recaps

You can read more about past programs below as we add them to our database.


  • SISE is a two-week "bootcamp" for future decision makers
  • Fellows (SISE'ers) are from all over and come from diverse backgrounds
  • Days are 8 hours long; evenings/weekends are for projects and exploring Chicago


SISE at Work


David Leopold's talk at UI LABS

Participants chat with speaker Weslynne Ashton


SISE invites guest speakers from businesses and academic institutions around Chicago, and sometimes from around the country. SISE experts discuss important issues relevant to the program theme, including current events and information about their own work.

Through our diverse array of guest speakers, participants engage topics through other disciplines and perspectives, picking up new concepts across fields from business to engineer, from architecture to physics, and from urban planning to philosophy. 



Tours and site visits give SISE'ers a chance to experience and interact with laboratories, businesses, and government facilities that research sustainable energy technologies. Participants spend a full day at Argonne National Laboratory, exploring the facilities and engaging with ANL scientists. Additional site visits are included each year to support the program theme. Past examples have included The Plant (an urban farm in Chicago), WaterSaver Faucet Co., Chicago Center for Green Technology, Union Station, and Method Soap Factory, UI LABS, the neighborhood of North Lawndale, O'Hare Airport, and IIT's WISER.

Participants visit the Argonne National Lab Transportation Research Center

VIDEO: Argonne National Laboratory is an annual site visit since 2012.

VIDEO: SISE visits the Method Soap Factory during its 2015 program.



Connecting with speakers and thought leaders at SISE is important. SISE'ers are given many opportunities to connect with academic professionals, business leaders, scientists, and entrepreneurs during the day. Mentoring sessions provide small group and one-on-one discussions with area professionals. Two large-scale networking opportunities bring together many from the Chicago energy community. SISE also helps connect SISE'ers to alumni and other personal contacts during their time at the program and after they leave..

Networking event hosted by several Chicago-area organizations

VIDEO: The Clean Energy Trust sponsors annual events for participants.

VIDEO: Convocation is annually held at the Navy Pier Crystal Gardens.



Collaborative Project - The collaborative research project plays an important role in the SISE experience. Early in the program, SISE'ers are divided into groups carefully selected groups of 4 to 5, maximizing diversity. Presented with a real world energy-related problem, each group will research and develop an innovative, comprehensive, interdisciplinary solution. New projects are written annually year to reflect the program theme. Groups have the chance to work with mentors to help develop their projects. At the conclusion of the program, SISE'ers give a presentation before a judging panel, and develop a video that will be played before area professionals. 

Jared Gonsky, mentor

Kim Moon, mentor

Lightning challenge presentation

Lightning Challenges - SISE'ers are periodically divided into random groups to solve lightning challenges. Groups will have 30-minutes to solve a problem and complete a task. Examples have included diversifying energy systems of urban areas, designing sustainably-minded campus and educational spaces, and the innovative integration of technology for data collection.

Winning teams receive a prize!





SISE'ers on the famous Architectural Boat Tour


SISE'ers work hard... and play harder. They enjoy (most) evenings off to work on their projects and get to know the city. Chicago has a lot to offer in the summer: amazing restaurants, free concerts, street festivals, fantastic museums, independent shops, and more. We like to have a good time throughout the program through these city-centric opportunities, and through social media competitions with fabulous prizes. And an occasional cat video. And dancing. Here are some memories from past SISE programs.