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From a minor in energy studies to a new career in energy innovation

Diego Giraldez '15 sets his sights on being an innovative energy leader thanks to courses taken in the energy studies minor at MIT.
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Diego Giraldez '15
Diego Giraldez '15
Photo: Justin Knight

As an incoming freshman, Diego Giraldez '15 had some big visions for his energy future. 

“I thought that I would come here and work on some really innovative energy [source] and put the oil companies out of business,” says Giraldez with a self-deprecating laugh.

He then joined the MIT Energy Initiative’s Discover Energy freshman pre-orientation program, where he would get a dose of the realistic, all-encompassing perspective on energy that led him to take on the energy studies minor and, eventually, look at his part in the future of energy in an unexpected way.

In his courses, Giraldez found a refreshingly grounded view of energy. Individuals at MIT, he says, had no delusions about changing our energy system in a day, and seemed to grasp a broader understanding of the issues than many he’d met. Where he had previously heard the myopic perspectives that often plague the energy discussion, he was now able to look at the issue in its entirety — the good with the bad.

“If there is a point that is not particularly positive, you know why, or you understand the complexities of why things are the way they are,” Giraldez says.

Four years later, he graduated with a major in chemical engineering, a minor in energy studies, and a very different idea of how to tackle energy issues. After graduation, Giraldez headed to Texas, where he starting work for ExxonMobil. 

In an energy industry that isn’t going to ditch fossil fuels overnight, Giraldez gained respect for the engineers at companies at like ExxonMobil that work to make sure things don’t go wrong. As a process engineer, he’ll be doing his part to keep things running safely, but down the line, he hopes to be in a position to contribute to the future of energy with a grounded understanding of both the challenges of the industry and the importance of innovative solutions that so many are working towards right here at MIT. 

Wrapping up his hopes for the future, Giraldez grins and adds, “I’d also be down to be the CEO.”

Already sounding the part, he went on to offer advice to the students stepping into his shoes at MIT, speaking of finding a passion and applying what you’ve learned.

“Whatever it is, take it further.”

Current MIT students can take their energy interests further with an energy studies minor. For more information, visit an info session, hosted by MITEI, on Sept. 30. 

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