UL Lafayette Geosciences Team named Top Oil Prospectors

Recently, a group of geosciences students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette competed in the 2023 North American Region Competition, where they were named the best team of students in North America who can determine where to drill for oil, according to this feature article from the University.

UL Lafayette’s team of competing geosciences students included Savana Anderson, Peyton Dardeau, Margaret Dittman and Abigail Watson, also known collectively as the University’s Imperial Barrel team. The team’s faculty advisor was Dr. David Oppo, an assistant professor in the School of Geosciences. This four-student team, which consisted of both undergraduate and graduate students,  placed first for the Imperial Barrel Award for the 2023 North American Region Competition, which is a competition for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Dr. Carl Richter, Associated Dean of Ray P. Authement College of Sciences and Professor at the School of Geosciences, spoke about the team saying, “this doesn’t place the School’s teams in exclusive company. It’s more like a private club. Over the years, the teams achieved a level of preeminence that’s not likely to be equaled anytime soon. It reflects the quality of students the School of Geosciences attracts and the strength of our graduate program.”

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ competition functions as a competitive showcase for students to collaborate as they analyze industry data, make key determinations about energy resources, and make vital decisions about sustainable extraction methods. Because the University’s Imperial Barrel team won the North American Region competition after winning the Gulf Coast sectional, they will be coming on to the world competition.

Last year, the ULL’s Imperial Barrel team placed second in the world and have won the overall event three times in the past: in 2012, 2014, and 2018. It should be noted that they are the only team to claim the title of “world’s best” three times in the history of the award.

The competition involved the students analyzing real datasets including information on basin’s geology, petroleum system elements, geophysics, and production infrastructures over the course of eight weeks. Throughout the competition, the four team members used state-of-the-art technology, received feedback from industry advisors, and networked with potential employers. The competition’s main goal includes identifying a prospective oil reservoir and determining its overall viability. The team then reports its verdict during a 25 minute presentation to industry experts, who then select a winner based on technical quality, clarity, and the originality of the presentation.

Joey Grimball was a previous winner for UL Lafayette during the 2012 competition, and he had the following to say about his involvement in the competition and the impact it has had on his career: “the IBA experience has been the culmination of my coursework at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. By using the knowledge we attained from previous courses we as a team were able to put together a prospect evaluation starting at the Basin analysis level with the understanding of regional geology, paleogeography, maturation of the source rocks, trapping mechanisms, reservoirs and seals in our area.

These past three months we have grown as individuals and gained insight into how real world petroleum prospectsare put together. Through our interaction with Industry professionals and advice given to us through our Advisor we have a better understanding of how Industry operates. Also the presentation skills along with the networking that we have been able to do through this process have added up to be the best experience of my academic career. I hope to be a part of the IBA experience for years to come.”

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Lab School to Be a Center of Learning, Teaching, and Education at UL Lafayette Campus

It was recently announced via this informative article from The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, that the school has found a home for the ULL Learning Lab. The Learning Lab will be a laboratory school that will be housed in a two-story, 70,000-square foot building in UL Lafayette’s Research Park.

The building that will host the ULL Learning Lab was originally occupied by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is a federal agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but it was recently announced that the building would be transferred to the University by U.S. Senator John Kennedy.

The Interim Dean of the ULL College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Paula Montgomery, spoke about the Learning Lab saying, “beyond a cutting-edge learning and teaching environment, the Learning Lab will be a hub for teaching practice and theory, education-based research and interdisciplinary collaboration. Acquiring a home for the lab school moves us that much closer to opening its doors.” Dr. Montgomery mentioned that the Learning Lab will offer students an expansive education that will feature the following: model teaching methods as well as an innovative curriculum that will encompass both interactive and outdoor learning experiences.

While there is not a set date on when the Learning Lab will be opened, ULL professor and the college’s former dean, Dr. Nathan Roberts explained that “renovations to convert the building into a space for innovative learning, teaching, and research is one of the priorities.”

Dr. Roberts was instrumental in the implementation of the lab school. He explained that initial proposals for the Labwould call for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students to enroll at the school with the eventual expansion through Eighth grade during the first several years. Eventually, this would lead to a high school, as the framework is based on “substantial interest from parents of potential students, school administrators, public officials, and community organizations. So, we’re excited to have the capacity to serve a wide range of people and foster partnerships.”

Essentially, the Learning Lab will be operating as an independent school district in the same manner as LSU andSouthern University’s lab schools. Additionally, it will be funded with a blend of tuition and state support. Furthermore, donor support will also be an essential aspect of the creation of the Learning Lab and its activities. UL Lafayette plans to fund the Lab School as a part of the largest comprehensive funding initiative in the history of the University. UL Lafayette plans to raise $500 in its campaign, which is titled “Together: The Campaign for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

One of the aims of the Learning Lab will involve it being a place for the majority, if not all, of ULL students studying and training to become teachers to be able to gain valuable classroom experience by observing and participating in the lab school in addition to their field experiences in local area school districts. Dr. Aimee Barber is an assistant professor in ULL’s Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, and she also co-chairs a faculty and staff committee that oversees the establishment of the school.

Dr. Barber explained, “the intent will be to immerse our teacher candidates in a space that enables them to not only learn about global best practice, but actually implement best practice as part of their teacher preparation. So, in their junior year, they will be immersed in laboratory school classrooms in preparation for their final year, which is a year-long residency in area public schools.”

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UL Lafayette To Start Only Smart Oilfield Concentration in Nation

This upcoming fall semester, students enrolled in the College of Engineering at  The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be able to pursue the only Smart Oilfield concentration in the nation. The announcement of this ground-breaking concentration is according to a news release from the school, where courses are set to begin this fall for the new concentration.

Specifically, the Smart Oilfield concentration is a pathway from ULL’s College of Engineering that is designed for petroleum engineering majors who are preparing for a career in the oil and gas industry, one that involves an increasing reliance on ever-evolving technology for efficient, safe, and environmentally-sound and stable exploration and production.

According to the Dean of the University’s College of Engineering, Dr. Ahmed Khattab, the new Smart Oilfield concentration is the only program of its kind in the entirety of the United States of America. Dr. Khattab commented on the necessity of establishing such a concentration by saying, “its addition is part of our comprehensive plan to address conventional and renewable energy by providing cutting-edge degree programs, minors, and concentrations that augment our traditional energy base and meet industry and community needs.”

According to Dr. Khattab, the new concentration will be able to integrate the College of Engineering’s current petroleum engineering degree program’s sub-surface expertise with data analytics, machine learning, and smart drilling. The concentration will also reportedly feature a combined blend of both traditional courses and interactive labs that will focus on automation, carbon capture, coding, computational fluid dynamics, machine learning, predictive capabilities, smart drilling, statistics, and the economic feasibility of exploration in specific locations.

According to Dr. Rafael Hernandez, the Interim Department Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, the curriculum for the Smart Oilfield concentration was developed based on extensive, data-driven research. The concentration was created in conjunction with input from professionals who work in the oil and gas industry, an entire field that has, according to Dr. Hernandez, “undergone a significant transformation in recent years.”

Dr. Hernandez continued to underline the necessity of evolving their program by continuing to outline the Oil and Gas industry by saying, “it now relies on a system of sensors, networks, and integrated operations that generate and communicate field and data analyses to ensure more environmentally friendly, safe and cost-efficient oil exploration, production and management.”

Outside of the new Smart Oilfield concentration, ULL’s College of Engineering has added eight other concentrations in the last two years in order to address recent trends in the industry and needs in fields that have been growing faster than the national average. For instance, employment opportunities for petroleum engineers are projected to increase by 8% through 2029, and employment opportunities for engineers are projected to increase 6% through 2029, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to Dr. Khattab, the total 9 concentrations that have been added by the College of Engineering have been added for a variety of well-informed reasons. Dr. Khattab said, “These are strategic additions implemented to ensure we continually give our graduates the knowledge and skills they will need for the jobs they want, and that will position them to thrive and advance in their careers.

Besides the Smart Oilfield concentration, the other 8 new concentrations are: autonomous and robotic systems; bioengineering; computer engineering; engineering management; power and sustainable energy; secure smart systems; sustainable energy systems; and water resources and environmental engineering.

According to the Department of Petroleum Engineering, the above new concentrations are made all-the-more valuable as the “UL Lafayette Petroleum Engineering (PETE) program ranks among the top in the nation and is recognized across the globe. It is the only academic program in the U.S. providing education and training for students to demonstrate compliance with the International Association of Drilling Contractors’ Well Sharp Certification, an industry-standard credential that ensures knowledge of cost and efficiency optimization and risk minimization during drilling operations.”

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University of Louisiana at Lafayette Announces $500 Million Fundraising Campaign

Oftentimes the spirit of giving accompanies the end of the year, and at UL Lafayette, that spirit is abundant. According to this news release from the university, a $500 million comprehensive fundraising campaign was announced by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, making it the largest single fundraising initiative in the school’s long history.

The initiative, which was formally started on November 5th is titled Together: The Campaign for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and according to UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie, the half-billion-dollar goal is not only about focusing on the school and its students, but the surrounding community, state, and world they find themselves in.

In his rousing speech announcing the historic milestone fundraising goal, Dr. Savoie stated that in reaching the $500 million goal, ULL will also “enhance the role the University plays in strengthening our community, deepening our wider understanding, and opening the door to a world-class education for those who come here to pursue their aspirations. This campaign is our moment to look upward and see that the only obstacle we face – the only limit we have – is our own capacity to dream. Together, we can – and will – shape the future.”

Four days following its announcement, the fundraising campaign was over halfway towards meeting its target, according to UL Lafayette vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the UL Foundation, John Blohm. Reportedly, alumni and friends of the university had already provided $303 million in pledges and gifts during its initial phase, which began in 2016.

As of today, the campaign has enabled the University to create many opportunities for faculty and students. This is seen in the four endowed chairs, 34 endowed professorships, and 122 endowed student scholarship funds that have been created thanks to the campaign.

In their donation, ULL alumni and friends have chosen to support various construction projects and renovations of teaching and learning spaces found inside several academic colleges over the years. Included in these projects made possible by the generosity of alumni and friends are the Maraist Financial Services Lab, which is located inside of theB.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, the Northwestern Mutual Sales and Research Lab, and the Grant Gibson Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences.

Additionally, several labs such as the Franks CAD Student Education Laboratory, Nick Pugh Aerospace Electronics Research Lab, and the Solar Energy Program of Excellence were created in a similar manner, and all three of the aforementioned labs are located inside ULL’s College of Engineering. Not to mention, the fundraising campaign has also helped to renovate the Roy House, which turned it into the new home for the Center for Louisiana Studies and the creation of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center.

Included in the $303 million that has already been raised in the campaign are the two single largest gift committees in university history. These are the $20 million from LHC Group that was for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions and the $15 million from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center for the renovation of Cajun Field. Both of these pledges were received by ULL in 2021.

According to UL Lafayette’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jaime Hebert, of the approximately 25,000 individuals who have made an effort to give to the campaign to date, 62% were identified as being ULL alumni, 30% friends, and 8% organizations.

Dr. Hebert reelected on the funds raised so far in the campaign by remarking, “this campaign has provided more opportunities for student success, world-class facilities for our student-athletes, a deeper connection to this community and its culture, and a stronger, better prepared and more agile workforce. None of this would have been possible without donors and friends working with the University to empower our students and change their destinies.”

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New Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom Coming to UL Lafayette

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will soon be able to take their learning outside of the traditional classroom setting by building an innovative outdoor classroom to study Louisiana’s Cajun Prairie, according to a news release from the school.

The new classroom is just one of two new environmental changes happening at the University as part of their Sustainability Strategic Plan, an initiative that encourages the creation of urban prairie environments on ULL’s campus. The project to cultivate the planned Cajun Prairie Habitat aligns with the Office of Sustainability’s master plan for stormwater management. By installing more urban prairies instead of other types of landscaping systems and structures, ULL will reduce the need for mowing, help to reduce stormwater runoff, and provide a habitat for bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Once the urban prairie is installed on the campus, it will also serve as an outdoor classroom from which students can conduct research and learn about stormwater runoff erosion management, native grasses and plants, bees and other pollinators, and soil quality. Also, in addition to being used by students directly involved in STEM courses and research studies, the outdoor environment will also serve as a type of gathering spot for all types of learning.

Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, the director of the University’s Office of Sustainability said of the layout, “the idea is to have a plaza-like outdoor seating area with no walls or roofing – a true outdoor classroom where students, faculty members, and the public can meet while they are working on the project.”

This vision of a school-wide classroom isn’t just a concept that exists in the completion of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom, but the interdisciplinary aspects of the project’s inception, planning, construction, and much more will provide learning opportunities for students from many colleges and disciplines.

The work to bring this project to life will begin this fall semester with an interdisciplinary effort to plant more native flowers and grasses along the 4 acres on either side of Coulee Mine, a stream that bisects University Common behind Blackham Coliseum. The planting of more native fauna along this section of the waterway will be led by UL Lafayette’s Ecology Center and its Office of Sustainability. This work will lay the foundation for what will become of the urban prairie environment, as it allows for students, community officials, faculty members, and researchers to gather and learn about the ecological value of native flowers and grasses in an environment where they actually exist.

Vanicor went on to highlight this stage as “one of the most important components of the project, because native plants’ expansive, fibrous root systems hold soil, reducing erosion caused by stormwater runoff. They slow water drainage, which reduces flooding, and also filters contaminants.”

Outside of the Ecology Center leading the installation and planting of the prairie, other ULL schools are collaborating to bring the project to life. For example, students who will help design and build the outdoor classroom will be from the School of Architecture and Design. Then, after it’s completed, students partaking in community service with the University’s AmeriCorps program and the Office of First-Year Experience’s ‘Big Event’ will coordinate the maintenance of the urban prairie along the coulee.

According to Vanicor, any findings and research gathered at the future site will be shared with public officials and water management professionals in an effort “to inform community dialogue and decisions, including about implementing flood mitigation methods.”

So while it’s encouraging for UL Lafayette to have so many students from several of the University’s departments and schools coming together to bring the academic and ecological dream of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom to life, the Louisiana community outside of the school will also be able to benefit from the research conducted in the urban prairie as well.

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UL Lafayette and SLCC Partner on New Engineering Transfer Agreement

It was recently announced that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College are collaborating on a new transfer pathway agreement that will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from both institutions.

This beneficial transfer agreement, which is set to begin with the Fall 2021 semester, will allow students beginning their post-secondary studies at SLCC to earn an associate’s degree in general studies with a pre-engineering concentration at SLCC. The student will then transfer to UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering to complete coursework, earning them a bachelor’s degree in engineering with no course credits lost in the process.

For decades high school graduates in the Acadiana region regularly attend their first two years of post-secondary education at SLCC before transferring’ over to ULL. Students choosing this pathway do so to save on tuition costswhile they earn generalized course credits that transfer over with them when they transfer to the four-year university. It should be noted that in transferring from a community college to a public university, many students notice that not all of their course credits transfer to their new degree program; luckily this won’t be the case with the announced transfer agreement.

SLCC’s chancellor Dr. Vincent G. June commented on the aim of the agreement, saying that it was designed to help a larger percentage of the student body achieve both their academic and career goals as well as give a boost to the development of the engineering workforce.  When speaking of the organization of the agreement, Dr. June was quoted as saying “to ease the transition for SLCC students who ultimately intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UL Lafayette.”

While at SLCC students will complete a curriculum consisting of 61-63 course credits that include classes in English, history, math, natural sciences, and social sciences. In addition to these courses that are applicable to a General Studies degree, students will also be required to take several engineering courses that are to be taught on UL Lafayette’s campus by professors from its College of Engineering. This cross-campus learning model is best suited for students entering the transfer pathways agreement as it will acclimate them to the learning environment, practices, and student body of the school in which they will ultimately finish their degree.

The press release confirmed that all credits taken in the pathway will successfully transfer to UL Lafayette, allowing students to pursue an engineering degree in a variety of disciplines and concentrations, including chemical, civil,electrical and computer, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. In order to earn an undergraduate engineering degree from ULL students must have completed at least 127 course credit hours of study.

Members of UL Lafayette’s administration who were present at the signing included Dr. Joseph Savoie, president, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Ahmad Khattab, dean of the College of Engineering. Representing SLCC at the historic signing that occurred in late May were Dr. Vincent G. June,chancellor, and Dr. Darcee Bex, interim vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs.

Dr. Bex, who is also SLCC’s dean of STEM as well as Transportation and Energy, spoke to ULL Press on the beneficial aspects of the agreement, “upon enrolling, transferring students will already know some of our professors and their fellow students and be acclimated to campus. They will also have about four semesters of coursework completed. Aligning the community college with university partners like UL Lafayette just makes sense. This transfer pathway will increase educational attainment in Acadiana and is a commitment to those students seeking a career as an engineer. We’ve created a pathway to get these students to that career.”

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