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Nathan Hazlett standing outdoors in front of the Aggie Well No. 1 pump jack on the Texas A&M University campus.
Undergraduate petroleum engineering student Nathan Hazlett plans to graduate from Texas A&M University in four years with two degrees, thanks to hard work, dedication and a passion for learning. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“Petroleum engineering is a combination of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and geology curriculums all rolled into one. There is so much you can do with this degree, especially as the energy space evolves,” said Nathan Hazlett.

In many ways, Hazlett is a typical Texas A&M University undergraduate student in petroleum engineering who wants to make people’s lives better through energy. But in other ways, Hazlett is atypical: he isn’t from Texas, no one in his family is an Aggie or in the energy industry, and he wants to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees by the time he leaves Texas A&M in 2025.

So how did he choose energy and Texas A&M?

During his last year of middle school, Hazlett’s mentor, an Ohio petroleum engineer, often shared in their meetings what his profession was like. Hazlett researched the career, liked what he found and decided on his future path.

“I don’t want to sit behind a desk all day,” said Hazlett. “I want a versatile career that connects scientific theory with hands-on field processes. Petroleum engineering provides such opportunities. For example, you might start your career in completions and then transition later on to production and experience other aspects of the oil industry.”

Hazlett chose classes in his Copley, Ohio, high school that would fulfill college prerequisites while he simultaneously obtained an associate degree from the University of Akron. Additionally, he contacted numerous professors and student groups at every college with a petroleum engineering program to determine which school was the best fit for him.

You tell people, ‘I'm going into petroleum engineering,’ and they tell you, ‘Your job's not going to exist in 30 years.’ And that’s not remotely true.

Nathan Hazlett

Hazlett said a pivotal conversation occurred with Dean Murphy, who was the president of the Texas A&M student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (TAMU-SPE) at that time. Murphy shared with Hazlett firsthand what life was like as an Aggie petroleum engineering student.

“I couldn't believe it,” Hazlett said. “I was just some random kid, and he spent hours on the phone discussing and addressing all my questions. What I found most appealing was the strong pride he had for Texas A&M.”

After researching Texas A&M’s programs and talking to many petroleum engineering former students, Hazlett decided to be an Aggie.

“The students and professors were extremely forthcoming, honest and supportive. I also felt very honored to receive the Craig & Galen Brown Foundation Scholarship — which sealed the deal for me,” Hazlett said.

Hazlett reached back out to TAMU-SPE after he moved to College Station, Texas, in 2021, and they made him director of freshman outreach, a job generally assigned to a junior student. Hazlett recruited 50 first-year students during the first week of school; all are still in the organization.

Next, Hazlett enrolled in the unique Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program at Texas A&M, which can be woven into a bachelor’s degree curriculum. Even though he already earned an associate degree while in high school, Hazlett still has a tough academic road ahead to graduate with two degrees by 2025. For instance, typical incoming first-year students in the College of Engineering go through the Entry-to-a-Major process; they follow a general engineering curriculum while exploring all the degree options available. Hazlett worked with the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering advisors to get permission to take petroleum engineering classes during his freshman semesters. That way, he could also accelerate his bachelor’s degree plan.

Hazlett doubled down on his efforts the summer after his first year in the College of Engineering. To stay on track with the MSF program, he must take a finance class every semester until he graduates with a bachelor’s degree. To achieve this, Hazlett took the notorious MSF finance boot camp during the summer of 2022. And he did this in conjunction with a full-time summer petroleum engineering internship.

“Boot camp crams many graduate-level credit hours into two two-week summer sessions,” said Hazlett. “So, I did two weeks of finance boot camp, then I drove to Dallas the next day to intern with Pioneer Natural Resources for about two and a half months. My internship ended on a Friday, and on Saturday, I was back at boot camp for the last two weeks, which included Chartered Financial Analyst exams.”

The internship was an eye-opener. Hazlett noticed that at least one other Aggie, if not more, was in the room or sat at the table in every single group or meeting. Seeing Aggies prominently entrenched in petroleum engineering confirmed his choice of schools and professions.

“I'm from up north, and oil and gas are less pervasive up there,” Hazlett said. “You tell people, ‘I'm going into petroleum engineering,’ and they tell you, ‘Your job's not going to exist in 30 years.’ And that’s not remotely true.”

Hazlett admitted that living far from home is difficult, but his parents support his decisions even though he’s their only child. Hazlett said they understand he will probably live in Texas after graduation to be closer to the heart of the oil and gas industry.

He challenged that separation further by studying abroad at Texas A&M University at Qatar during the 2023 spring semester. While there, Hazlett competed in the international paper and presentation contest at the Petro Barza in Oman. He represented TAMU-SPE — the only student chapter attending from the U.S. — and was the youngest presenter. Hazlett took first place overall in a crowded field of mostly graduate students.

Hazlett was the TAMU-SPE vice president during the 2022-23 academic year. He strove to serve with the same attitude of support and mentoring he’s come to love about Aggies. As for his future, Hazlett is looking forward to being a full-time engineer. His courses confirm his love for the subject and how petroleum engineering makes sense to him.

“My previous internship was in completions, and I loved working in both the field and the office,” said Hazlett. "I woke up and went to work each day, soaking up as much knowledge as possible. This summer, I'll be interning in production with Hilcorp Energy on Alaska's north slope — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I know very little about production, but I welcome new experiences and am excited to learn from such a premier operator.”