The first-ever class of undergraduates in the Cullen College of Engineering’s revived undergraduate petroleum engineering were awarded bachelor's degrees at the college’s commencement ceremony last Saturday. After being discontinued decades ago, the bachelor’s degree option in petroleum engineering was re-established in the fall of 2009 to counteract the critical shortage of talent needed to replace the industry’s aging workforce. Please click here to view photos from the spring 2013 commencement ceremony.
The bachelor’s degree option in petroleum engineering was originally launched in the fall of 2009 to counteract the critical shortage of talent needed to replace the industry’s aging workforce. Since then, the undergraduate Petroleum Engineering Program has been highlighted as a model partnership between industry and academia by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF).
While the Cullen College has long had a successful Master’s program in petroleum engineering, until a few years ago it had no such offering for undergraduates. By the middle of the last decade, though, many businesses in the petroleum industry were experiencing difficulty finding new talent and saw “the great crew change” – the coming wave of retirements among key engineering and technical personnel – as a major looming challenge. College and program leadership, seeing a need they could help meet, took the first steps toward establishing an undergraduate degree in field.
With significant support from the petroleum sector, however, the B.S. program in petroleum engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering was launched. Companies and individuals in the field provide the program with funding that has allowed it to build essential facilities such as labs and classrooms, as well as to help students through scholarship support.
Industry members also serve on the petroleum engineering advisory board, where they help design a curriculum that addresses the realities of the modern petroleum sector. According to the BHEF report, the curriculum addresses the “evolution in the industry toward new technologies that allow engineers to access previously unreachable energy sources.” Students gain a solid grounding in the full span of upstream petroleum engineering, including drilling, formation evaluation, production, and reservoir engineering.
What’s more, the program’s classes and labs are focused not just on memorizing facts and formulas, but on developing skills vital to success in the 21st century, such as problem-solving, teamwork, effective communication with colleagues from diverse backgrounds, and safety in the actual practice of engineering.
Since its founding in 2009, the program has experienced tremendous growth. At its launch, the undergraduate petroleum engineering program had just 20 students. Today, it has 400, and that number is projected to grow even larger in the coming years.