Petroleum Popularity Fuels LSU Engineering


In today’s world of increased energy consumption, petroleum engineers continue to discover new energy sources and apply contemporary methods to natural gas engineering, geothermal energy, and deep-water production. As the demand for skilled energy sector workers increases, so does the popularity of petroleum engineering programs, and LSU’s Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering stands among the most robust programs in the U.S., conferring 109 bachelor degrees in the 2013-14 academic year.

The oil and gas industry in Louisiana and across the country looks to LSU to fill key positions, and College of Engineering graduates are in demand for high salaried positions. Those employers are actively recruiting at LSU, conducting 464 petroleum engineering interviews in 2013-14 for both internships and full time employment through Career Services’ Careers2Geaux.

“From your freshman year, the petroleum engineering professors drill into your brain the importance of internships and relate what they are teaching back to what is happening in the industry,” said Mackenzie Caldwell, petroleum engineering senior. “I spent three months on the optimization team during my summer internship at Chevron in Houston. Being involved from the beginning stages of a project through the daily aspects of improvement and efficiency in production, up until implementation, gave me great insight into the petroleum field.”

Combined with a popular specialized discipline, LSU’s prime location adjacent to deepwater operations in the Gulf Coast has attracted a record number 733 petroleum engineering students who seek to form industry connections early in their academic career.

“Industry recognizes LSU as one of the best petroleum engineering schools in the country, and that makes its graduates more desirable to companies,” said Karsten Thompson, chair, Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering. “To provide the best educational experience for these students, we have increased the number of lab sections and course offerings, plus we are actively hiring new faculty, most of whom have experience in the oil and gas industry.”

What makes LSU PETE stand out among its peers is the combination of classroom instruction, lectures, hands-on laboratory research, and industry exposure that comes full circle at LSU’s Petroleum Engineering Research & Technology Transfer, or PERTT, Laboratory.

“Our main hands-on training facility is the PERTT Lab, which is a field scale facility designed for research, testing, training, and education. Historically, its main focus is in the area of well control, or blowout prevention,” said Thompson. “However, it continues to expand and provide resources in other areas such as multiphase flow and artificial lift.”


LSU is the one of the only schools in the U.S. that offers and requires hands-on training in well control and understanding hydrostatics and pressure control in wells using actual wells.

Students are exposed to well control with real equipment and realistic situations, instead of relying on simulators, through two laboratory courses taught at PERTT. Faculty also benefit from the ability to conduct and learn from research done using the full-scale systems at the lab while industry representatives conduct training at PERTT.

Also addressing unconventional energy sources, LSU’s petroleum program is invested in real fracturing simulation through its first hydraulics fracturing laboratory. Dr. Arash Dahi, assistant professor, provides students an ideal environment to implement hydraulic fracturing tests without surrounding noise and geological uncertainties found in the field. “We are focused on developing methods to better describe fracture extension, which is crucial to address environmental concerns,” said Dahi. “In addition, we are conducting other types of research, such as wellbore integrity, which are essential to the practice of safe fracturing treatments.”

Reflecting the national upswing in recruitment of students to major in science, technology and math degrees, LSU’s College of Engineering has experienced a historic boost in new students and is addressing the infrastructure and educational resources needed for student success.

“Following the lead of petroleum engineering growth, LSU’s College of Engineering overall undergraduate enrollment has increased by 59 percent,” said Rick Koubek, dean, LSU College of Engineering. “To address this historic growth, our alumni, donors and industry partners have provided unwavering support to help complete a $110 million capital campaign for the expansion and renovation of the engineering campus. Beginning this fall, we will break ground to provide state-of-the art facilities and laboratories for education and research. In addition, we are engaged in a major faculty hiring initiative to add 50 new faculty positions into the College over the next five years.”

To learn more about petroleum engineering program and research being conducted at LSU, watch an interview with Dr. Thompson at

LSU’s Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering

Founded in 1929, LSU’s Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering evolved into an accredited department in 1939. Professional courses are offered in drilling and production, well design, reservoir engineering, petro physics, well logging, and the phase behavior of hydrocarbons systems with specific attention to the economic evaluation of drilling and production operations. Nationally ranked, the program has alumni throughout the world working for major companies, small independent companies, government agencies, and as independent consultants.

For more information about LSU’s Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering, visit