Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Elisabeth Drake '58, ScD '66

Promoting sustainable energy and connecting lives

Elisabeth Drake finds hope–for herself and the planet–through connections with others. And her greatest source of optimism is teaching students at MIT.

That’s why, though she is officially retired, Drake is still involved with Sustainable Energy, an interdisciplinary graduate class at the Institute. While serving as associate director of the MIT Energy Laboratory from 1990 to 2000, she became intrigued by the connections between excessive energy use and environmental problems. To work on this issue, she and colleagues developed MIT’s first sustainable-energy course.

This story is part of the July/August 2008 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Drake began her career as a cryogenic engineer at Arthur D. Little, where she designed and tested experiments for the Apollo lunar-surface project and consulted with operators of liquefied-­natural-gas facilities. In the 1970s, she helped start an ADL group in hazardous facilities risk management and worked as vice president of the company’s practice in technological risk management.

Drake left ADL in 1982 to teach at Northeastern University as the Cabot Professor of Chemical Engineering and chair of the chemical-engineering department. She also began to struggle with alcoholism. She returned to ADL in 1986, but two years later she was fired as a result of her drinking problem and ended up in a halfway house. Living there, she was able to turn her life around. “I finally learned I needed to stop isolating and start connecting with others to break my cycle of addiction,” she says.

Fifty years after graduating from MIT, Drake recalls isolation and stress during her student days. To help foster community, she helped establish the Women’s Independent Living Group (WILG) more than 30 years ago and today serves as a board advisor. WILG’s 45 residents live in a five-story house at 355 Mass. Ave. “They look out for each other,” says Drake. “It’s very positive.” Drake herself recently moved to a retirement community in Newton, where she enjoys her cats, gardening, many friends, and volunteer work–when she’s not at MIT, that is.

Her work today at the Institute involves teaching students how to increase global energy resources while drastically reducing carbon footprints through an energy portfolio including solar, wind, biomass, and nuclear power, as well as carbon sequestration. “Interacting with students has given me great hope for the future,” she says.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.