Graduate School Plans Daylong Focus on Energy

Energy@UH Will Promote Networking, Professional Development

Graduate school can be a time of intense focus, burrowing into the lab or classroom and missing connections with the outside world.

A series of daylong special events sponsored by the Graduate School and the Provost’s Office is intended to change that.

“The idea is to serve graduate students, to take them out of their silos, to bring them a view of the world,” said Dmitri Litvinov, interim vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

The series kicks off with Energy@UH, set for Saturday, Nov. 23.

Designed to provide graduate students with a broad overview of specific fields of study, the inaugural session will be a collaboration between the Graduate School and UH Energy. It will include talks by University faculty and speakers from the private sector, along with tours of the Energy Research Park and other UH facilities.

UH has almost 8,000 graduate students but didn’t have a separate graduate school until it was established by Provost Paula Myrick Short in August. The Graduate School has streamlined applications and tackled other “infrastructure” issues, but Litvinov said he also wants to create more of a graduate student community.

The Nov. 23 session will be a start, bringing together students from different disciplines – business, engineering, law and other graduate and professional programs – to gain insights on energy.

“Graduate education and research, much like the commercial application of such training, is interdisciplinary and about breaking down silos and that is the goal of this one-day event,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH chief energy officer. “UH is a unique institution in the energy capital of the U.S. that has all the different aspects of energy-related efforts.”

Attendance will be limited to 100 students; students must be nominated by a faculty member in their department or college.           

Future sessions will focus on health and other topics, Litvinov said.

Speakers from UH will include Robert Stewart, director of the Allied Geophysical Labs and the Cullen Chair in Exploration Geophysics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Patrick Peters, professor of architecture in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture; Matthew Franchek, director of the University’s subsea engineering program, Venkat Selvamanickam, director of the Applied Research Hub at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston, and Praveen Kumar, finance professor at the Bauer College of Business.

Additional speakers will come from the business community, Litvinov said.

He said he asked speakers to model their talks on the popular TED talks.

“It’s not a technical conference,” he said. Instead, it is about broadening students’ horizons.

“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.

“Later, they’ll realize it’s there, and they can be more successful.”