Jeffrey Brownson


I harken from the Great Plains, West of the Mississippi. I am originally from North Dakota, home of dozens (which I'm told is a lot like Inner Mongolia). Actually, my home town of Grand Forks is a university town about the same size as State College, PA, with a nearby air base, and an internationally recognized aerospace program. I greatly enjoy visual arts and design, but I began my career in science by studying the earth systems around me, in particular geology and environmental chemistry.

I trained as a multidisciplinary research scientist, and earned my PhD from the University of Wisconsin--Madison in Environmental Chemistry and Technology developing materials science technologies for environmental applications. So to me, solar energy conversion systems are actually powerful environmental technologies rather than just energy tech. In that broader sense of environmental technology, I hope to bring a unique flavor to this course that will be new to you and get you thinking.

Nobody is a native to solar energy education in the USA (at least, nobody that I've ever met yet), and that holds true even for a Penn State faculty who researches and teaches solar energy (all solar, all day, every day). In my days of undergrad and grad school, there were no programs in solar energy education (you can read about the solar gap from 1985-2005 in the textbook). I actually accrued most of my solar chops as a developing professional in materials science with industry and then academia. Later, at Penn State, I was selected as the Faculty Director for the 2009 Solar Decathlon home, Natural Fusion--which was a boon to me and the rest of the team for solar education. However, my background in environmental technology and earth systems science really helped in the process.

This should give you some glimmer of hope--you actually are learning about solar energy in a graduate course! It also goes to show that with commitment and a lot of good hard work, you can develop new skills to shape a strong and healthy lifetime career path for solar energy.

Course Spotlight

pile of maps

Cartography and Visualization (GEOG 486) covers design principles and techniques for creating maps with contemporary mapping tools. Students will be introduced to future-focused application topics such as augmented and virtual reality, mapping with multivariate glyphs, the visual depiction of uncertainty, interactive geovisualization, and (geo)visual analytics, and decision-making with maps and mapping products. Visit the course.

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Fritz Kessler

Dr. Fritz Kessler has taught various online courses in the Master's of Geographic Information Systems at Penn State since 2007. He's also an avid cyclist and musician. Learn more about Dr. Kessler, see what he has to say about online education, and hear him play a tune on the mandolin.