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Petroleum engineering professor shows what it takes to be a leader in and outside the classroom

10/23/2017 | By Claire Andersen

The University of Houston’s petroleum engineering program, the largest and fastest growing department in the Cullen College of Engineering, can now boast another National Academy of Engineers (NAE) member on its staff. Adjunct professor Birol Dindoruk was inducted into NAE, which is widely considered the highest honor for an engineer, in early October. 

A principal technical expert and team leader in reservoir engineering as Shell, Dindoruk has taught at UH since 1999. He currently teaches a graduate level course on petroleum fluid property and phase equilibrium. Dindoruk’s experience in the oil and gas industry and knowledge of its current state makes him an invaluable asset in preparing students to be successful in the classroom as well as in their own careers. 

“There’s always space for the best. If you think you’re the best, that’s a perception. But it’s not what we think, it’s how others see us,” he said. “The key point is to drive to look best in the eyes of others, leading to the absolute competitive advantage.” 

Dindoruk career is a primary example of what it takes to be the best, and of the rewards that lay ahead for those who develop this competitive advantage. His theoretical and practical contributions to enhanced oil recovery and CO2 sequestration caught the attention of NAE members and earned him a nomination to the Academy earlier this year.

“I was really surprised because it’s not typical for those who work in the industry. I do a lot of work but I can only publish maybe 10 percent of it,” Dindoruk said. “I’m positively surprised. I’m still reacting to all the emails and invites.” 

Dindoruk’s theoretical and practical work on enhanced oil recovery and CO2 sequestration began during his time at Stanford, where he received Ph.D. His doctoral thesis focused on improving oil recovery and continued even after he graduated. 

“I got my Ph.D. in ’92 but I kept publishing with my adviser until 2006 or something like that,” he said. “I felt like I never graduated.” 

That determination and dedication is what has made his career successful and what his is trying to pass along to his students. As he strives to equip his students Dindoruk points out that he also benefits from the courses he teaches. 

“It’s a way to give back to the community, and I also benefit from it,” he said. “Of course if you teach, it helps you not forget things, so it has benefited me. I keep learning.”