The University of Houston (UH) Energy initiative and the UH Graduate School jointly held the first-ever Focus on Energy session Nov. 23. The session was designed to provide energy insights and a view of the “outside world” as it relates to the energy industry and peripheral disciplines.
It must have been a daunting task getting graduate students to voluntarily brave the elements on a cold, rainy weekend to listen to the series of presentations given at the Focus on Energy session, but UH pulled it off in stellar fashion.
“The event was held to educate and inform our graduate students about the wealth of opportunities that exist across UH in energy. Moreover, it gave the students a chance to get to know each other and understand the value of interdisciplinary learning and collaboration as a path forward once they graduate and enter the energy workforce,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, the University of Houston’s chief energy officer, told Rigzone.
There was a broad cross-section of speakers at the tightly choreographed session, including a representative from private-sector energy major Baker Hughes Inc.; a representative from Casa Exploration, a smaller energy company; a representative from Centerpoint Energy, the third-largest utility in the United States; professors from a number of energy-related disciplines; and a professor from the Bauer College of Business.
Upwards of 80 graduate students attended and remained engaged through the events, which included tours of laboratories at the school’s Energy Research Park (ERP).
The presentations were not intended to be technical in nature. Instead, they were designed to broaden the students’ horizons, said Dmitri Litinov, interim vice provost and dean of the Graduate School and electrical and computer engineering professor.
“If we can get a physics student to meet an economics student, that’s a success,” Litvinov said. “They’re both working in energy. They’re building a network. I think it’s extremely important for their professional development, their life development.”
While the presentations were not scientific, several of them – such as the discussion of the exploration and production business cycle given by Ivan Terez, Casa Exploration senior reservoir engineer – covered energy business-related topics.
The Baker Hughes team of Gary Flaharty, vice-president of Materials Management, and Josh Baerenwald, University Relations recruiter, presented an overview of the company and its place in the energy sector, and also covered the different areas of the company that provided career opportunities and suggestions for breaking into the energy sector. The presentations resulted in a number of questions that indicated a high degree of interest from the attendees.
The utility company Centerpoint became home to 500 UH alums following graduation, according to Dimitri Karastamatis, the general manager of mobile energy solutions. In addition to talking about the importance of energy to the city of Houston, Karastamatis covered some basic but important areas often overlooked by graduate students, such as the need to follow one’s passion, and the importance of doing the work, rather than just relying on getting a degree. Karastamatis also echoed comments by the university’s chief energy officer, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, about the importance of collaboration and building good interdisciplinary relationships.
Praveen Kumar, the UH Global Energy Management Institute (GEMI) executive director at the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business, got the attention of virtually all the graduate students when he noted that Bauer is the single largest recruiting source for many companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. Kumar also revealed that the energy management curriculum at UH is the most comprehensive in the world for energy.
Matthew Franchek, UH Founding Director of the Subsea Engineering Program, gave the grads a glimpse into the subsea engineering environment. Franchek talked about the eye-opening costs associated with operating in this environment, where equipment must be absolutely reliable. Graduates with an educational background in subsea engineering will find that coursework in the discipline moves their resume to the top of the stack, Franchek said.
Touring the ERP Labs
The relationship between energy and architecture might not be an obvious one, but it is there, and in the age of energy conservation, the relationship is strengthening, said Patrick Peters, LEED certified UH professor of architecture.
Peters gave a presentation using photos of a charging station and other structures in the Houston area that are permanent works of architecture made by first-year architectural students.
A short bus trip took the graduate students to the UH ERP, which is home to a number of externally nondescript buildings that hide high-tech research laboratories within.
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