Student chapter wins Society of Petroleum Engineers Presidential Award | Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –  The Penn State Society of Petroleum Engineers student chapter won the 2023 Presidential Award for Outstanding Student Chapter, as recognition for going above and beyond the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) mission to engage the industry, serve local members and the community, and participate in social outreach. The award is the highest honor the society bestows college chapters, with only three U.S. universities receiving the distinction. The award marks a growing recognition for the chapter, which previously won the Student Chapter Excellence Awards in 2022 and 2020. 

Baran Yucel, a graduate student in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering (EME) and 2022–23 SPE student chapter president, was not surprised by the news after witnessing the yearslong effort firsthand. 

“When I found out, I was copied in an email with 50 recipients, including international students, Ph.D. students, undergrads and advisers,” said Yucel. “It was like a giant Thanksgiving dinner with everyone celebrating together. It embodied the Penn State ‘We Are’ spirit.”

Yucel pointed to a change in their chapter’s approach as the major factor in achieving the sought-after award. In particular, the club widened their recruitment focus. Yucel originally joined SPE as an undergraduate student studying petroleum and natural gas engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. When he arrived at Penn State in 2021 to pursue his doctorate, he quickly joined the Penn State chapter. His experience taught him the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives into the club.

“We realized that our department encompasses minerals and energy,” Yucel said. “We have a wealth of students, from master’s candidates to international scholars, specializing in fields such as energy system engineering, who could benefit from joining SPE, not just those in petroleum engineering. Embracing new voices invigorated us and ushered in a multitude of innovative ideas.”

Sanchay Mukherjee, a graduate student studying petroleum and natural gas engineering and 2022–23 SPE membership chair, first heard the news during his petroleum engineering internship at Chevron in Houston. As membership chair, Mukherjee’s main goal was to increase membership numbers. The chapter did so through many social, technical and networking events held throughout the past year. He credits the enthusiasm and willingness to come together as the difference from past efforts.

“We showed up as a team,” said Mukherjee. “Everyone, it didn’t matter what their titles were, wanted to help as much as possible.”

The chapter was built on multiple successes which assisted in leading up to the award. The chapter placed first in the SPE Pittsburgh Section Poster Competition and second in the Chevron Engineering Week Competition. The chapter also competed against the world’s leading students in the Petrobowl Championship Qualifiers – a fast-paced quiz environment covering technical and non-technical questions about the industry.

Between competitions, the chapter also made sure student members attended notable technical conferences to network and spread the word about their community and work. The efforts eventually got the notice of the SPE President Medhat Kamal, as well as regional officers from the Pittsburgh section who flew in to attend the chapter’s annual banquet.

“We had over thirty events when you add up all the technical courses, clean energy projects, talks and hiring events last year, but for me, the banquet was the highlight,” said Yucel. “It was such a great time for faculty and students to celebrate our achievements, meet industry professionals, and spotlight our social responsibility initiatives like providing aid to Turkey following the heartbreaking earthquake earlier this year.”

Hamid Emami-Meybodi, associate professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering (PNGE) and program chair, has watched the club grow as their faculty adviser.

“This award honors exemplary efforts in industry engagement, operations and planning, and community and social outreach, and it recognizes those that go above and beyond,” said Emami-Meybodi. “This speaks to the PNGE program and the department’s robustness in providing platforms for student-oriented outreach and industry engagement. I’m very proud of the many exceptional accomplishments achieved by the chapter over the past year that received not just industry recognition but public recognition.”

Douglas Doll, a senior majoring in petroleum and engineering and current SPE Penn State student chapter president, is excited to continue the winning tradition. Doll and the new leadership team have their sights on several exciting new events, including the return of the club’s annual golf outing. The aggressive effort had Doll fielding calls during his internship with Universal Pressure Pumping between visiting natural gas sites across Pennsylvania.   

“I really want to show that Penn State has one of the best petroleum programs and SPE student chapters in the country,” said Doll. “Our priority is to help our members learn and grow as much as possible.”

The Society of Petroleum Engineers is an international professional organization that strives to bring students, faculty, professional alumni and distinguished members of the industry together to network and bring positive impact to their communities. Members attend conferences all over the world. SPE is a space in which the younger students can learn from the more experienced students through mentoring and tutoring. 

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