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UH/Rice SPE Chapter Splits into Two Groups

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Toby Weber

The undergraduate Petroleum Engineering Program at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is booming, with roughly 525 students set to enroll this fall – a huge increase from its inaugural class of just 15 in 2009. To better serve these students, the program has been granted its own chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

For years, UH’s PE Program offered only a master’s degree. During this period it shared an SPE chapter with nearby Rice University, since neither university had enough petroleum engineering students to meet the SPE minimum requirements for a chapter.

With the incredible growth of UH’s undergraduate PE program, however, the chapter membership has grown dramatically. “A lot of things started happening here at UH, and of course the Rice students were informed and invited, but because of the physical separation between the two campuses, there wasn’t much crossover,” said UH SPE president and petroleum engineering undergraduate Zarina Hudaybergenova.

The split was actually proposed by students at Rice earlier this year because their membership had also grown. The Gulf Coast Section of the SPE officially granted a chapter to UH on July 29. 

For Hudaybergenova, the operation of a stand-alone UH chapter is made much easier by the support she receives from the department. John Lee, Professor and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair, is one of the most decorated petroleum engineers in the nation, but is generous with his time as the chapter’s faculty advisor, said Hudaybergenova. In addition, PE Program Director Tom Holley and Academic Advisor Anne Sturm always make themselves available to help.

“Anne and Dr. Holley are well known by the students in the department. They’re incredibly encouraging and supportive. I can basically knock on Dr. Holley’s door any time of the day and talk to him about chapter business or anything school-related,” Hudaybergenova said.

The creation of a UH SPE chapter, she added, should benefit fundraising efforts, which this year will include a golf tournament in the fall semester and a casino night in the spring. Most of the money raised through these events and through donations from companies like BP, Chevron, Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, will go toward scholarships for petroleum engineering students.

Aside from the fundraisers, the new chapter will be active in the larger SPE framework. Students are preparing submissions for the annual SPE student paper contest, and a team from UH is studying for the PetroBowl quiz competition that will be held during the SPE’s Annual Technology Conference in New Orleans this fall.

The group is also planning outreach events, including regular volunteer days at the Houston Food Bank and is hoping to participate in volunteer activities organized by the area’s petroleum engineering companies, Hudaybergenova added.

“We’ve got a lot of plans for the next year and there are a lot of students excited to get involved,” she said. “Everyone in UH SPE wants to build a chapter that will support petroleum engineering students at UH for a long time.”

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