Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin


Only in the second year of his Ph.D. program, UT PGE’s Mohammad Eshkalak was surprised and honored when he heard the announcement that he is the sole winner of the esteemed Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Nico van Wingen Fellowship.

“For a petroleum engineering graduate student, this is the most important recognition you wish to receive,” Eshkalak said. “I was astonished as I was the only student in the world to receive this prestigious award.”

The Nico van Wingen Fellowship awards up to two Ph.D. students $5,000 per remaining years in their Ph.D. program for their achievement in innovative research and publications. SPE elected Eshkalak as the single recipient of the award.

Eshkalak poses in a suit doing the hook 'em horns sign.

Eshkalak’s extensive research in natural gas and unconventional reservoirs led to this award, as he has completed nine conference and journal papers since the beginning of his pursuit for a doctorate degree in 2013.

“The main goal of my research is reservoir simulation method, advancing and developing the next generation of simulators for unconventional shale gas reservoirs,” Eshkalak said. “Whatever research that is done in this regard can be incredibly valuable for other researchers and engineers in the oil and gas industry.”

A demonstration that Eshkalak’s research is of national interest was just one of the many requirements for him to be named as a fellow. Nominees also had to show a desire to continue their oil and gas career within academia rather than within industry.

“Since I received this award, I believe I am on the right track,” Eshkalak said. “I will continue to conduct research in this direction and pursue academia to one day become a professor.”

News of Eshkalak’s award is a point of pride for the department, including his co-faculty advisors Drs. Larry Lake and Kamy Sepehrnoori.

“Mohammad’s receiving of this award is a singular achievement for both him and our department,” Lake said. “The gift will make a definite impact on his research progress.”

Eshkalak said he is honored to see his work rewarded, but wanted “to give credit to Dr. Lake and Dr. Sepehrnoori for their guidance.”

“I think the combination of giving a fresh look to classic research, the amount of papers I wrote and the fact that I am from UT PGE increased my chances of winning this award.” Eshkalak said. “Being a Longhorn makes all the difference.”

Eshkalak will officially receive the Nico van Wingen Fellowship award at this year’s SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) held in Houston, Sept. 28-30.