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Higher Education
University of Houston
News Release
Friday, December 09, 2011

ASME Donates $1.25 Million to UH Engineering Initiatives

HOUSTON – The Petroleum Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) announced Tuesday it is donating $1.25 million to the University of Houston to support engineering initiatives at the school.

A $1 million gift will be used to establish the ASME Petroleum Division Endowed Chair in Subsea Engineering in the UH Cullen College of Engineering. The endowed chair provides an opportunity for UH to recruit a world-class leader in subsea engineering who can broaden course offerings, spearhead new research and increase community outreach efforts.

An additional $250,000 donation to the College of Technology extends the life of their Petroleum Technology Initiative and will be used to help fund such operating expenses as adjunct faculty support, scholarships, facilities, equipment, software and outreach programs.

“We are proud to support the University of Houston as it broadens and strengthens these two important energy-related initiatives,” said ASME Petroleum Division Chair Gary Harrison.

The ongoing development of a subsea engineering curriculum demonstrates UH’s recognition of the critical role of offshore and deepwater engineering for the energy industry,” Harrison said. “Additionally, the Petroleum Technology Initiative has generated strong interest and support from our group and major energy companies in the area.”

Educating the future workforce is the paramount mission of ASME and the Petroleum Division. Engineering Technology degree plans are designed to have experiential learning as the educational backbone, and the program at UH is one of the best in the country,” Harrison said.

UH has identified energy as a key strategic focus for faculty research and teaching. The subsea engineering program is the latest effort by UH to support the area’s vital energy sector, and the College of Technology’s Petroleum Initiative is an ongoing industry-coordinated, workforce directive designed to complement current programs.

“These generous gifts to UH from the ASME-Petroleum Division enable us to take a huge step forward in our mission to become the ‘the energy university,” said UH President Renu Khator.

“The endowment creates a fully integrated partnership between the university, the Houston-area energy industry and the international professional society supporting subsea engineering in Houston,” Khator said. “Combining this generous support with our existing industry partners launches UH to the forefront of subsea engineering education and research.”

Matthew Franchek, chairman of the UH department of mechanical engineering and director of the subsea program, said subsea engineering “is one of the leading innovations needed to meet an ever-growing global demand for energy.

“To date, UH has the only subsea engineering program in the country. This endowment will enable UH seek a rainmaker in subsea engineering who will educate students and make discoveries that promote safe and reliable subsea oil and gas production,’ Franchek said.

Earlier this year, UH started the subsea program in response to the oil industry’s need for these skilled engineers, who are responsible for the design and maintenance of the equipment, tools and infrastructure used in the underwater phase of offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

Courses in the UH program are taught by recognized experts in the industry. Subsea engineering typically has not been considered a distinct discipline in the U.S., but a number of universities aboard offer degree programs in the field.

The program’s curriculum advances the science and engineering of subsea oil and gas production systems, with participants gaining a solid, diverse knowledge base in subsea engineering as well as an understanding of the best practices and the state and federal regulations governing them.

“There are incredible challenges in designing and operating equipment in the extreme conditions presented by subsea environments,” said Joseph W. Tedesco, dean of the Cullen College of Engineering. “Our location in the ‘Energy Capital of the World’ provides us ongoing opportunities to draw upon the vast knowledge and experience of the petroleum industry in Houston and, specifically, the subsea engineering sectors.”

UH’s Petroleum Technology Initiative focuses primarily on using industry retirees, as well as Houston-area facilities and personnel, to teach and/or mentor students. This initiative has generated strong interest and support from major energy companies and organizations such as ASME.

“A gift at this level undoubtedly validates the need for the petroleum initiative,” said William E. Fitzgibbon, dean of the College of Technology.   “Our vision is to create a critical mass in energy research and become a leader in energy workforce training; and, this initiative offers outstanding advantages for us to prepare engineering technology students for the future.”

ASME is a not-for-profit, global organization dedicated to promoting the art, science and practice of mechanical engineering. The ASME-Petroleum Division provides mechanical engineers, students and others working in the oil and gas industry with the opportunity to participate in technical workshops, conferences another professional and social activities, while fostering the continued growth of engineering education and the promotion of mechanical engineering as a career choice.

Remembering Jim Guidry

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