UH Petroleum Engineering Program Hits Major Milestone

Move to Full Department Status Will Help in Recruiting Faculty, Students

The University of Houston’s petroleum engineering program – started in 2009 with just 20 undergraduate students – has been elevated to a full department within the UH Cullen College of Engineering. The move was announced this month.

The new department, which serves about 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students, previously had been a program within the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Its director, Tom Holley, has overseen its rapid growth. With 968 undergraduate students, it is one of the largest petroleum engineering departments in the nation. Holley said the new status will help in recruiting both faculty and students.

Joseph Tedesco, dean of the Cullen College of Engineering, said UH petroleum engineering graduates will help to define the energy future.

“The University of Houston is the nation's Energy University, and the establishment and success of its petroleum engineering department is vital to the future of the city of Houston, where the demand for engineering talent is higher than in any other major U.S. city,” he said. “UH Petroleum Engineering graduates are the next-generation of global, entrepreneurial energy leaders.”

The move follows recognition in August by the Accrediting Board for Engineering Technology, which focuses on college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. Programs aren’t eligible for ABET accreditation until they have been established long enough to produce graduates, and Holley said it earned accreditation on the first try.

In addition, a Ph.D. program in petroleum engineering was approved in April by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. UH long has offered a master’s degree program in petroleum engineering; the undergraduate program had been dropped in the 1980s during the oil bust and was re-started in 2009 at the request of energy companies who needed graduates for their workforce.

Holley said demand for petroleum engineering degrees remains high, even with lingering low oil prices, with enrollment about 150 students higher than last year.