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Fall 2008
Out of Africa: UH Trains First Class of ‘Homegrown’ Oil Geophysicists
By Lisa Merkl
University Communication

More than a dozen new homegrown petroleum geophysicists are ready to enter the oil industry in Africa thanks to a University of Houston program at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

UH has long been known as an international energy educator, with cooperative programs from China to South America. Now South Africa joins the list, with UH completing its first petroleum geophysics master’s program in Africa. UH representatives and 14 graduates participated in a graduation ceremony in Cape Town this summer.

Africa desperately needs educated petroleum workers. However, students sent from Africa to Europe or the United States for advanced-degree study seldom return to their home country because of the numerous opportunities abroad created by the global workforce shortages. The UH program has prepared these African graduate students to work for the various oil companies operating in their countries.

Run as a UH extension program in Africa, this graduate degree program was taught by 13 professors in applied geology and geophysics, with each course being completed in a one-month period and students completing a capstone research project at the conclusion.

Giving students the ability to obtain a U.S. degree through collaborative efforts with UH helps encourage economic development in African countries and aids in the search for new petroleum reserves on the African continent.

"We’re very interested in international collaborative programs like this one, and we’re deeply indebted to the cooperation of the University of Cape Town," said John Bear, dean of UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Through such efforts, we’re contributing to solutions for the worldwide workforce shortage in petroleum geology and geophysics."

The initial UH/UCT program was largely sponsored by the South African national petroleum company, PetroSA, providing funding and fellowships for the students, as well as providing the funds for the entire computer lab and all the servers.
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