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.

Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, SISE Fellows (or SISE'ers) join us from around the country each August at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Diversity is a strength 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!


Program Recaps

You can read more about past programs below, and on our stats page.


  • 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 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 areas of research 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 SISE'ers and thought leaders is imperative. SISE'ers have 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 a vital role in the SISE experience. Early in the program, SISE'ers divide into carefully selected groups of 4 to 5 to maximize thought diversity. Each team tackles a selected real-world energy-related problem, and they are asked to 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 expand their visions. At the conclusion of the program, SISE'ers give a comprehensive presentation before a judging panel.

Jared Gonsky, mentor

Kim Moon, mentor

Lightning challenge presentation

Lightning Challenges - SISE'ers are periodically divided into random groups to solve "lightning challenges." Teams 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 even 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: fantastic restaurants, free concerts, street festivals, fabulous 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.