petroleum engineering - College of Engineering & Natural Sciences

petroleum engineering

What does a chemical engineer do?

Few careers touch as many aspects of daily life as chemical engineering.  

The battery in your laptop or cell phone. Your clothes. The paint on the walls around you. In fact, if you’re looking at something manufactured, chances are that a chemical engineer was involved at some point in the production process. 

When you earn a chemical engineering degree, you learn how to make and manage new products safely and economically. Many real-world chemical engineers help develop new materials, but even more often they’re responsible for scaling up the process needed to produce those materials. (Think of it as the difference between cooking dinner and cooking dinner for thousands. Whenever you increase the scale so greatly, all kinds of variables are introduced that the chef may not have considered. That’s what chemical engineers do: They make sure that products look as good in real life as in a prototype.) 

test tubes containing vivid green liquid and algaeBecause chemicals are used in so many applications, chemical engineers are employed in almost every industry imaginable. The petroleum industry has long been a major employer. And as oil and gas companies make commitments to go green, cutting emissions from their production process, they’ll rely on chemical engineers to drive those improvements. (At The University of Tulsa, chemical engineering professors have even managed to make 91-octane gasoline from algae.)  

Green energy is creating even more jobs in this exciting area. For instance, as more automobile manufacturers announce plans to go all-electric in 10 or 15 years, they need a lot of new chemical engineers who know how to manage battery production. Even legacy industries are using sustainable engineering practices to revamp their production processes, excising waste and reducing harmful byproducts. 

Fortunately, a chemical engineering degree is versatile enough to go into energy, environmental remediation, pharmaceuticals and more. It’s the Swiss army knife of engineering majors: It gives you a broad foundation in just about every engineering discipline. In fact, some people call chemical engineers “universal engineers.”  

At TU, chemical engineering courses will give you the skills to work in fields such as alternative energy, biotechnology, chemicals, environmental engineering, pharmaceuticals, materials, natural gas and petroleum.  

“The great thing about a chemical engineering degree is that it exposes you to so many different aspects of the field, and opens the door to so many opportunities,” said Ty Johannes, chair of TU’s Russell School of Chemical Engineering. “At TU, students don’t just see that in the classroom. They also have multiple opportunities to get in the lab and conduct research.” 

Connect with TU 

As a student at the Russell School of Chemical Engineering at TU, you can choose whether to pursue a general track — pursuing specialization in refining, materials, environmental engineering or business — or one with a pre-med focus. 

ENS faculty and students honored for research and industry advancement

The following faculty and students from the TU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences recently have received recognition in their respective fields.

McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering


Williams Professor of Petroleum Engineering Hong-quan Zhang has won the 2020 Society of Petroleum Engineers International Production and Operations Award.


Wellspring Professor of Petroleum Engineering Evren Ozbayoglu and Eissa M. Al-Safran, a professor at Kuwait University, have been named SPE Distinguished Members. Also, TU PhD student Elias Gavrielatos is a 2020 recipient of the Henry DeWitt Smith Scholarship.

See the official announcement of 2020 SPE International Awards.

Department of Biological Sciences


Professor Akhtar Ali is the recipient of a new five-year, multi-institution, USDA grant to study diseases of cotton, corn and wheat. Ali’s lab will focus on developing techniques for early detection of cotton pathogens and disease. The total award is $578,000.


Professor Ron Bonett recently was awarded a third year of funding for a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to study the “Distribution, Diversity, and Ecological Limits of the Ouachita Dusky Salamanders in Oklahoma.”



True Determination: TU PetroBowl team takes first place at regionals

The University of Tulsa PetroBowl team won the Society of Petroleum Engineers North American Regional Qualifier February 3 in Houston, Texas. TU competed against 20 teams in this fast-paced quiz competition, defeating UT-Austin for first place.

The TU PetroBowl team celebrates first place with its winning bracket.

As regional winners, TU team members and petroleum engineering students Juan Diego Comella, Umer Farooq, Blazej Ksiazek, Misael Morales and Luke Moran are invited to compete at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) World Championship in Calgary, Canada, next fall. Farooq, captain of the TU PetroBowl team said, “We go very hard on preparation, but we know the potential is out there from the other teams as they are the best of the best from colleges all across the world. But (when we went to Houston), we did our thing, it went really well, and we were No 1.”

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The PetroBowl competition coordinates student SPE chapters to battle against each other in a series of quick-fire questions. Four-member student teams compete in petroleum engineering trivia, including technical and nontechnical industry-related questions. The PetroBowl was founded by the Society of Petroleum Engineers International.

Each member of the team studies a category of the questions to make rehearsing easier. Farooq, a-soon-to-be Ph.D. degree graduate in petroleum engineering, studies reservoir and formation evaluation. Comella focuses on drilling, production and general knowledge, in addition to SPE history. Morales concentrates on geology and geophysics and Moran on drilling and well completions. Ksiazek is a sophomore and the current alternate for the team as well as the TU SPE PetroBowl chair, concentrating on drilling and general knowledge in addition to SPE history. Mike Stafford, faculty instructor in petroleum engineering, is the SPE PetroBowl faculty adviser for the TU team.

Left to right: Team members Blazej Ksiazek, Luke Moran, Misael Morales, Juan Diego Comella and Umer Farooq

Comella explains that Farooq is dedicated to the group’s success. “Our captain is really like a coach. He writes questions for us to practice and has been doing this for a while.” The team meets once a week until closer to competition when they begin meeting every few days.

“PetroBowl is important because it gives you contact with different people – different backgrounds, different years in school, different passions in petroleum engineering,” Ksiazek said. “You learn so much at TU with a petroleum engineering degree, but with PetroBowl you can learn even more about the field.”

Farooq agrees and said, “It’s a great way to represent TU on an international level.”

For the future, the TU PetroBowl team is brainstorming to create an internal PetroBowl event for just TU petroleum engineering students, similar to an event held in 2016. They also have an idea to create an A team and B team to recruit students for future competitions. “There’s a lot of talent at TU and this is a commitment, but we are looking forward to what’s next,” Farooq said. “I believe our team is very capable of clinching the victory in Calgary this fall.”