EMS student gains different perspective on energy industry through internship

Jesse Westbrook
November 28, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vivek “VT” Thomas, a senior petroleum and natural gas engineering student in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), expected to learn a variety of skills from his experience as an intern during summer 2016. However, he didn’t foresee the importance of training companies in the rapidly changing oil and gas industry.

Thomas worked as a petroleum engineering intern at International Human Resources Development Corporation (IHRDC), a worldwide leader in training and competency development for the oil and gas industry. IHRDC has offices across the world, and Thomas worked in its headquarters in Boston.

“IHRDC uniquely focuses on providing training resources for the industry, and they were one of the first companies to do this, starting in the 1960s,” said Thomas. “Right now, they serve about 80 countries across six continents.”

Competency is critical in the energy industry, a sector constantly evolving with new technology and environmental considerations. For students like Thomas, being educated and well-prepared before entering the industry is paramount to having successful careers. But even experienced professionals need to stay up-to-date with new tools and technology that are being developed to increase the efficiency of oil and gas operations.

Thomas was primarily tasked with editing and improving a section of the company’s online oil and gas encyclopedia called “IPIMS,” a subscription-based website that serves to educate professionals and companies on various topics in the oil and gas industry, such as the major sectors of petroleum processing (downstream, midstream and upstream).

“Each section works like a textbook, and includes questions, quizzes and assessments,” said Thomas, who specifically updated the section on hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

During the internship, Thomas also worked on oil field studies for ExxonMobil, which is one of the numerous companies that go to IHRDC for specific training or analyses.

“I provided summaries for different off-shore oil fields that included production data, field size and the geology of the field,” he said. “This information was incorporated into IHRDC’s geologist training program for ExxonMobil specifically.”

Thomas pointed to the courses he has taken in petroleum and natural gas engineering at Penn State that prepared him well for the internship. He also emphasized the usefulness of what he learned at IHRDC and how it will be applied in his senior-level courses.

“Working at a training company gave me a whole new perspective on different information in the oil and gas industry,” said Thomas. “For example, in PNGE 430 [Reservoir Modeling], we have been discussing the mass transfer of oil in reservoirs, which I learned quite a bit about during my internship.”

Connecting with other Penn State alumni in the industry

While working at IHRDC, Thomas had the opportunity to network with other Penn State alumni.

“It was surprising to see so many Penn State alumni at the company,” said Thomas. “It just shows the extensive network that our University has.”

One alumnus that Thomas interacted with was David Donohue, president and founder of IHRDC and a graduate of Penn State’s doctoral program in petroleum and natural gas engineering. He also worked with Donohue’s son, Timothy, a fellow Penn State graduate. Donohue, his son and their family endowed a professorship in the John and Willie Leone Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering.

In addition, Thomas worked alongside Erhan Aslan, who received his doctorate in energy and mineral engineering with a focus in petroleum and natural gas engineering in 2013, and Y. Serdar Dogulu, who received his master of science and doctorate in petroleum and natural gas engineering in 1994 and 1998, respectively.

Thomas said that his biggest takeaway from the summer is that the energy industry is monumentally larger than he originally thought.

“The energy industry is so vast that there are opportunities for graduates like me in so many places, including abroad,” he said. “And I’ll be able to apply what I learned at IHRDC no matter where my career takes me.”

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Last Updated November 28, 2016