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  An Energy-Monitoring System for Stanford University's Leslie Shao-ming Sun Field Station
    by John Scofield, Associate Professor of Physics
Biographical Information

A.B., Univ. of Michigan--Flint, 1978

Ph.D., Cornell University, 1985

John Scofield When I first came to Oberlin College from AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1987, it never occurred to me that I might someday have the freedom to make a major change in my research field.

In graduate school and at Bell Labs I had studied noise in metallic thin films and metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistors, and investigated new ways for fabricating thin metal coatings and superconducting yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) thin films. During my first six years at Oberlin I continued research in these areas. My research was very applied, bordering on electrical engineering. Indeed, some of my research appeared in journals published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Students with engineering interests gravitated to my research program, and several of my former research students earned graduate degrees in engineering fields.

With tenure attained and my first sabbatical ahead, I began to worry less about the next grant and think a bit more outside the box. In 1993 I shifted directions and joined the thin-film photovoltaic (PV) device group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, to work on copper-indium-diselenide (CIS) thin-film solar cells. I decided to apply my expertise in semiconductor devices and thin-film materials to investigate solar cells. This change was not as dramatic as it appeared, since in my day-to-day research I used many of the same fabrication and characterization techniques that I had been using for years. I continue this work today in collaboration with the thin-film photovoltaic group at Cleveland's NASA Glenn Research Center

I first became interested in green buildings in 1993, while I was on sabbatical leave at NREL. That spring, my NREL research group moved into the newly constructed Solar Energy Research Facility (SERF). This building was one of the first to be highlighted by the Department of Energy in its High Performance Building Program. This program now features approximately 60 buildings, including Oberlin's Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies.

Upon returning to Oberlin I joined the Environmental Studies Program Committee during what proved to be the initial planning stage for the Lewis Center. That spring I wrote my first essay regarding that building, arguing that it should be located on Lorain Street, opposite Wilder Hall, rather than on the Elm Street site that was subsequently adopted.

In 1997 I began teaching Energy Generation and Usage, a course that has evolved over the years into Introduction to Solar Energy and, this semester, into two module courses, Energy Technology I & II. In these courses students learned about the many ways buildings use energy, and each year we conducted an energy audit of a local building, most often a house in town. We conducted energy audits of two Oberlin College buildings, the Wright Laboratory of Physics in 1998, and, two years later, the newly constructed Lewis Center. This latter investigation spurred another major shift in my research.

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