Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin


UT PGE students swept the 2017 Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Southwest Regional Paper Contest. The competition was hosted by Encana Corporation on Feb. 1 in Denver. More than 14 undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students from four universities in the Southwest region took part in the paper contest.

Paper contest participants presented their innovative findings from a research project or internship to judges, who are experts in the field. The students were critiqued on the following three areas: subject matter, delivery and clarity of communication.

In addition to placing in the top spot in all three divisions (B.S., M.S. and Ph.D.), UT PGE students also swept second place:

Undergraduate Division

  • 1st – William Dubois  
  • 2nd – Syed Zeerak Abbas Abdi

Master’s Division

  • 1st – Nkemakonam Egboga
  • 2nd – Vivek Ravi

Ph.D. Division

  • 1st – Ali Abouie
  • 2nd – Mohsen Babazadeh

The top place finisher in each category will travel to San Antonio, Texas this Oct. 9-11 to compete in the international paper contest at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE). UT PGE students will go up against the impressive qualifiers from the other 13 regional divisions. This is the sixth consecutive year at least one UT PGE student won the regional competition and went to the international contest.



Petroleum and geosystems engineering sophomore Karan Jerath was chosen as one of 17 United Nations Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Young Leaders, a group of students, authors and startup founders from around the world, were recognized for their leadership and contribution to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 goals to end poverty, fight injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.

Karan UN Photo web

Jerath in New York City at the UN General Assembly meeting

“The UN Young Leader recognition is a huge honor for me,” Jerath said. “I am very humbled. It strengthens what I have been learning — good ideas are encouraged no matter how old you are. It gives me the confidence to continue working hard and making an impact.”

The Young Leaders are active for two years and will advocate for the sustainable development goals to their peers and audiences. Each year, a new class of Young Leaders will be selected through an open call for nominations.

Jerath, who is the youngest member of the inaugural class of Young Leaders, was selected from a pool of more than 18,000 nominations from 186 countries. He hopes to spend his time as a Young Leader promoting STEM education and demonstrating sustainability efforts through an engineering lens.

The UT System Board of Regents committed $100 million in Permanent University Fund (PUF) bond proceeds to support the construction of an energy engineering building in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The building is the next in the Cockrell School’s master facility plan and will be focused on energy-related education and research.

Before construction can begin, two additional levels of approval from the Regents will be required, and the school will also need to secure $50 million in philanthropic support.

“I am grateful to the Board of Regents for their support of this important facility and their commitment to our extraordinary Texas Engineering faculty and students,” said Cockrell School Dean Sharon L. Wood. “The energy engineering building is a critical step in ensuring the university’s continued leadership in energy education and research.”

The vote by the Board of Regents allows the school to begin formal planning and programming for the building. The first step will be to work with UT Austin and UT System personnel to select a design firm.

Three UT PGE faculty members have been selected as recipients of the 2016 International Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) awards.

Professor Jon Olson, who is a leader in hydraulic fracturing research, and Professor Eric van Oort, who has established a global reputation for his ideas on revolutionizing the drilling process using the latest technology, have been awarded the SPE Distinguished Member award.

Established in 1983, the Distinguished Member award recognizes SPE members who achieve distinction deemed worthy of special recognition. Distinguished Membership is limited to one percent of SPE professional members and acknowledges members who have attained eminence in the petroleum industry or the academic community, and/or who have made unusually significant contributions to SPE. 

Professor Kishore Mohanty has been awarded the SPE Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty. It recognizes superiority in classroom teaching, excellence in research, significant contributions to the petroleum engineering profession and/or special effectiveness in advising and guiding students. As the recently appointed CPGE Director, Mohanty is leading a strong research program while continuing to educate the industry’s future leaders.

All three faculty members will receive their awards at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, September 26-28, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE.

Professor Mary Wheeler has been selected to receive the 2016 Institute for Computational Engineering Sciences (ICES) Grand Challenges Award. Selection for these awards is based on highly compelling research proposals related to the Grand Challenges in computational engineering and sciences that affect the competitiveness and international standing of the nation.

The project will develop a simulation to identify the likelihood of sinkholes developing from injection of wastewater and carbon sequestration in the subsurface. Research has already established that the formation of sinkholes requires three conditions: (1) presence of a thick dissolvable rock formation (like salt caverns); (2) large, higher temperature, fluid flow rates of unsaturated fluid, and (3) conditions for mechanical destabilization and rock failure.

Wheeler’s group will conduct computational studies of the microscopic degree to which each of these conditions must exist for the sinkhole to occur. This includes taking into account common rock and cavern environments, paired with the components of the wastewater or rate of carbon sequestration.