• July 15, 2019

UT STARs funding to enhance UTPB programs - Odessa American: News

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UT STARs funding to enhance UTPB programs

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Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 4:06 pm

The University of Texas Permian Basin recently received close to $2 million from the UT System’s Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention program for use by five new and existing professors.

The Faculty STARs program may be used to attract and retain the best qualified faculty and to purchase equipment and renovate facilities as part of that effort. The funding totals $1,741,560.

Those awarded funds are Interim Chair of Mechanical Engineering Forrest Flocker; Omar Beg from UT Arlington; UTPB Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering Zhengwen Zeng; Mohamed Zobaa, assistant professor of geosciences at UTPB; and Lauren Neal, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. Neal will support current initiatives in psychology and kinesiology, information from the university said.

“This is a really, really great opportunity for UTPB, just due to the fact that we are growing our academic programs as well as our research programs,” said Sandra Garcia, assistant vice president of research and dean of graduate studies.

UTPB is trying to attract top-notch undergraduate and graduate students, she said.

“The way you do that is by bringing them here because you have the faculty and you also have the resources, such as the research labs. You have scholarships. You have a place for them to do their studies (and) their research while they’re working on their master’s degrees and their undergraduate (degrees),” Garcia said.

Many of the faculty members who received the funding are in the College of Engineering, which doesn’t yet offer any master’s degrees. However, Garcia said a master’s in mechanical engineering is in the works.

Flocker said the funding will enable the College of Engineering to obtain equipment for sponsored research. Typically if you have the equipment in place, he said, it makes it easier to receive grant funding. The projects also will engage students.

It also will help generate revenue and graduate programs for the university and increase UTPB’s stature, Flocker said.

Garcia said many students look at undergraduate and graduate schools based on their academic aspirations and whether the university gives them a chance to do research and work with top-notch faculty.

“This is the way that UTPB is headed. We are really trying to grow all our academic programs, as well as our master’s programs, to ensure we’re attracting well-rounded students. The Permian Basin is huge. And as you know, we’re in a boom right now. The Permian Basin is our research laboratory,” Garcia said.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Heimmermann said the funding helps advance one of the core missions mission of the university — the discovery and application of new knowledge. 

“With this support, we’ve been able to recruit outstanding faculty away from major research institutions to join our community and work in the Permian Basin,” Heimmermann said in an email.

There are also opportunities for students to get internships with companies and get hands-on experience so when they graduate they are able to step into those jobs, Garcia added.

“It’s so important because we’re working with these companies now and asking what do you want in the students that we’re graduating? How do you want us to prepare them for the workforce? They’re telling us this is the knowledge we want them to have; the experience we want them to have, so they’re offering internships and these students, once they get an internship with that company, that company is then likely to hire them after they graduate,” she said.

Another plus, she said, is that students who come to UTPB are from this area and they aren’t likely to leave.

“They have the potential and the intellectual capacity to fulfill our workforce needs,” Garcia said.  

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