Sep 282010
 
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

Ron Sega retired his astronaut helmet years ago so he could take on a different exploration –– energy.

“On the shuttle you have only a small amount of energy available,” Sega said. “Your ability to live and work in space is dependent on how you manage your resources.”

As the leader of a newly-founded collaboration between Colorado State University and Ohio State University, Sega will travel between his home in Fort Collins and an apartment in Columbus, Ohio in an attempt to find a new way to approach the energy problem and environmental research.

“He sees a partnership between a Midwest university and a mountain-west university being a very strategic partnership,” said Carol Whitacre, vice president of Research at Ohio State.

His job will span three years and is coined vice president and enterprise executive for Energy and the Environment.

“This is really what’s going to be required to solve the energy problem,” Whitacre said. “Ron’s has a very big vision of what energy could be.”

Sega came to CSU in 2007 and has since worked as Vice President of Energy and the Environment for the university’s Research Foundation and as a
Woodward Professor in the College of Engineering. The collaboration came about when Sega, an Ohio State alumnus, suggested it to the Midwest’s university president Gordon Gee, Whitacre said.

Sega said global competition and national energy and environment policy came to mind when he thought up the position. He also plans to put an emphasis on campus sustainability.

“This is an opportunity for two land-grant universities with a variety of strengths and very different backgrounds to work together to create something larger than the sum of their parts, leverage their faculty’s extensive expertise and tackle real world problems,” said CSU President Tony Frank in an e-mail to the Collegian.

Many of Sega’s duties will overlap, at both institutions will be expected to seek out funding to support energy and environmental research, form partnerships with local laboratories and state governments and establish a global rapport in his area of expertise.

At CSU Sega will be a leader for about 200 faculty working with energy and the environment, maintain his role as a Woodward Professor and at Ohio
State he will oversee 300 individuals at the school’s Institute for Energy and the Environment and serve as a tenured professor.

In what Whitacre called a “50/50 deal,” the two Land Grant university’s will split Sega’s salary and Ohio State will take care of his travel expenses, while CSU covers health care benefits. CSU’s portion of Sega’s compensation is $165,000 CSU spokesman Brad Bohlander confirmed.

“When the idea of having a dual appointment was proposed, it seemed to be a win-win prospect for both universities,” Frank said, adding that the university plans to consider opportunities to collaborate in the future.

The biggest challenge, Frank said, will be finding times when he, Sega and Gee can schedule meetings with legislators in Washington D.C.

From space exploration to high profile federal positions, Sega has worked for decades applying research to real-life situations.

As director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense, Sega focused the nations approach on energy and power,
aerospace and knowledge and surveillance.

Sega, who served as Under Secretary of the Air Force, ventured into space on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994 and on Atlantis in 1996.

Sega has a bachelor’s in math and physics from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master’s degree in physics from Ohio State and his doctoral in electrical engineering from CU-Boulder.

News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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