Petroleum engineering department hosts annual student paper contest

The Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University will host its annual Student Paper Contest on Saturday (Jan. 28) in the Richardson Building. 

Each year junior, senior, master’s and Ph.D. students in petroleum engineering give oral presentations on research papers they write concerning a petroleum engineering topic they have studied. The subjects are petroleum engineering problems the undergraduate students have selected for themselves, often based on work they did in summer internships, and the graduate students’ research projects. Panels of industry judges assess the quality and professionalism of the students’ work.

The objective is to assist students in developing the skills to present their findings in oral and written form in a professional setting. Many former students and companies hiring Texas A&M petroleum engineering students have stated their belief that this contest is one of the most important professional development opportunities the department provides.

Since it began over four decades ago, this local contest has grown significantly in the number of students participating, industry support and sponsorship, and has become a time-honored event. Dr. Duane McVay, director of the contest, is assisted by staff coordinators Kathy Beladi and Phaedra Hopcus, and leads a team of volunteers the day of the contest. This year, he expects 470 students to compete in 26 sessions before 115 industry judges and 26 faculty moderators.

2015 regional student paper contest participants

Shown in photo: 2015 division winners who advanced to regional competition standing with faculty mentor, Dr. Michael King (center).

Session winners on Jan. 28 will compete in the division runoff contest the following Saturday. First and second place winners from the senior’s, master’s and Ph.D. divisions at Texas A&M will advance to the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Gulf Coast North America regional competition held in Houston on April 1. 

SPE coordinates 14 regional student paper contests using the same undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. divisions. The regions are: Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Eastern North America, Europe, Gulf Coast North America, Middle East, Mid-Continent North America, Rocky Mountain North America, Russia and Caspian, Western North America, South America and Caribbean, South Asia, and Southwestern North America.

2016 international student paper contest participants

Shown in photo: 2016 regional winners who advanced to international competition. 

Regional first-place winners advance to the International Student Paper Contest, held in October during the 2017 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in San Antonio. First place international division winners have their research papers published in the conference proceedings.


Since 1993, Texas A&M students have won first place in the international contest 13 times at the undergraduate level, 14 times at the master’s level, and 14 times at the Ph.D. level.