UH Engineering Professor Chosen for Highest Honor From Society of Petroleum Engineers


Rashda Khan
UH Professor Christine Ehlig-Economides Wins Top SPE Honor. Photo Credit: UH Energy
UH Professor Christine Ehlig-Economides Wins Top SPE Honor. Photo Credit: UH Energy

SPE Recognizes Christine Ehlig-Economides With Honorary Membership


The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) bestowed its highest honor – the SPE/AIME Honorary Membership – on Christine Ehlig-Economides, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair at the University of Houston and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

Honorary Membership is limited to 0.1 percent of the SPE total membership. This elite group represents those individuals who have given outstanding service to SPE and/or who have demonstrated distinguished scientific or engineering achievements in the fields within the technical scope of SPE.

“I joined SPE while I was a Ph.D. student at Stanford and have been actively involved with SPE ever since,” Ehlig-Economides said. “The Honorary Membership recognition puts me in the company of industry giants. Considering how I started, this is amazing.”

Ehlig-Economides earned a bachelor’s degree in math-science from Rice University, and planned to be a math teacher. “I thought I would marry and spend my life as a parent and a teacher,” she said. “Instead, after getting a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), I learned that math and science teachers had to coach male athletes, and that teaching opportunities were very limited.”

Then circumstances changed and a new opportunity appeared. In 1972 the federal civil rights law, Title IX, banned institutions from excluding individuals based on gender. Seeing an opening to enter into historically male-dominated fields, Ehlig-Economides decided to give engineering a try. Her math and science background made the decision easy. She went onto earn a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. in petroleum engineering from Stanford University.

Prior to joining the Cullen College, Ehlig-Economides taught at Texas A&M University for 10 years and worked 20 years at Schlumberger.

Ehlig-Economides is a co-author of “Petroleum Production Systems,” a seminal textbook in the field of petroleum engineering.

She was elected to the NAE in 2003, and was a member of the National Academy of Science Committee on America’s Energy Future and the NRC Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES). She is one of 16 Quantum Reservoir Impact (QRI) Scholars and now is a member of the QRI Board. She is also a member of the Research Partnership To Secure Energy for America.

Other accolades earned by Ehlig-Economides from SPE include: the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal, Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty, the Lester C. Uren, John Franklin Carll, and Innovative Teaching and Formation Evaluation Awards.

Reflecting on her career, Ehlig-Economides said she has no regrets.

“Being a petroleum engineer has given me the opportunity to travel to all but one continent and to work with people from all over the world,” she said. “Every day offers new concepts and challenges far beyond my imagination as a young person.”

SPE also appreciates Ehlig-Economides career choice and involvement.

“On behalf of the SPE Board of Directors, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the University of Houston for supporting the active involvement of Christine in the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Member participation and leadership are important factors that enable SPE to achieve its mission of collection, dissemination, and exchange of technical information,” said Darcy Spady, 2018 SPE president.

Ehlig-Economides will receive the award at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition scheduled for 24-26 September at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas.

SPE is a not-for-profit professional association whose members are engaged in energy resources development and production. It serves more than 168,000 members in 144 countries worldwide. SPE is a key resource for technical knowledge related to the oil and gas exploration and production industry and provides services through its publications, events, training courses and online resources at

Ehlig-Economides offered some advice to Cullen College students wishing to follow in her footsteps.

“Consider higher education, beyond the bachelor of science degree. I think this has impacted how people related to me professionally,” she said. “That being said, too much education tends to limit corporate management opportunities, and now there are women breaking the glass ceiling without so much education. Many might prefer that.”

“Either way,” she added, “there is no substitute for hard work and it is critical to be self-confident and resourceful.”


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