Aberdeen Looks Beyond Tomorrow with Thesis Factory Concept

The Aberdeen Young Professionals (YPs) Section held its inaugural Thesis Factory event at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen in February, aimed at postgraduate students undertaking masters’ degrees in various energy engineering courses at the school. The objective of the Thesis Factory was to improve the quality of thesis topics selected by the postgraduate students, to improve the practical value that the students bring to their future employers, and to demonstrate the various options available in the energy industry for the students.

The event attracted 90 students. The format was designed to excite students, and rather than dividing the industry into different disciplines, presented an integrated vision defining the industry’s objectives and challenges. Topics presented related to future challenges compared with today’s problems. The industry segments presented included deep water, high-pressure/high-temperature wells, mature assets, tight gas/unconventional gas/heavy oil, and reservoir types. The event followed a workshop format.

Before the event, a group of industry experts posed a number of different challenges for the students. Student teams were created to work on, and present solutions to, the specific challenges presented. The exercise was designed to encourage the students to think about developing, designing, and applying technology/strategy/models to different scenarios.

The event, which was themed “A Framework for the Future,” started with an introductory speech by the Aberdeen YP Section Chair Anthony Onukwu, who gave an overview of the Thesis Factory concept. A keynote presentation on current and future industry challenges was delivered by Ben Stewart, Senior Technical Adviser, Europe/Eurasia, Halliburton-Easywell. It was a highly motivating and stimulating presentation that outlined various choices and opportunities the industry offers students. This was based on current and future global challenges the industry faces in finding energy for future generations. He concluded with a summary of the key aspects of a good project.

A presentation by Adele L’Etang and Keith Mackie, representatives of Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF), followed. L’Etang and Mackie provided an overview of their organization. The aim of the ITF program is to attract talent to the energy sector by establishing collaborative industry-generated projects for use in postgraduate research degrees. It is a 2-year pilot program aimed at improving the image of the oil and gas industry and encouraging a larger number of qualified personnel to enter the energy sector. They informed the audience that they will be ready to assist or support some of the great ideas the students would be putting forward during the event. They also indicated their willingness to form some kind of synergy with SPE Aberdeen YP group in the future.

After the presentation by ITF representatives, break-out sessions commenced. Students were given an hour to return with answers to questionnaires given to them, based on different challenges presented. Each student was expected to come out with three different thesis topics/areas of interest to them. Three representatives from each student team presented to the panel different thesis areas identified by their teams. They also outlined the skills required to carry out such research and a preliminary approach.

During the final session, the industry experts made constructive comments on the various ideas the students had put forward. There was a question-and-answer session in which students had the opportunity to engage the industry experts on various areas of interest they had identified as possibilities for theses. The event ended with a light buffet and a networking session where the students had the opportunity to further interact with the industry professionals present.

Most of the industry experts indicated that they were ready to support the students’ ideas.  The student feedback after the event has been great. Most students said they are ready to take their ideas forward and that they have been highly motivated and challenged.  The Aberdeen YP Section has agreed to make this workshop an annual event. They promised to monitor the progress the students are making with taking their ideas forward through feedback from the SPE Student Chapter at the University. Other universities under the Aberdeen Section’s sponsorship will be targeted for the event next year.

The Aberdeen YP Section would like to acknowledge all the industry participants of the event for their excellent contributions, including Stewart, Mike Richardson (Senergy), Murat Kece (Eclipse Petroleum Technology), Mike Mosley (Talisman UK), and Adrian Topham (Helix RDS).

Aberdeen YPs are ready to offer support to other YP sections who are interested in doing a similar event. Please feel free to write to for more details.


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