As Dr. Jon Olson settles into his new chair position, bringing 20 years of faculty experience at UT Austin and a strong research background in hydraulic fracturing, he opens up about his vision for the department, his favorite UT PGE memories and how he spends his time outside the chair role.
1/ What is the most exciting aspect of taking on the chair role?
I look forward to guiding the department through changes to meet future challenges, through the hiring of new faculty and the constant re-examination and improvement of our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. I want to be a catalyst that enables the students and faculty of our department to achieve their goals and dreams.
2/ What is at the top of your priority list?
I would like to see us reduce the size of our average undergraduate classes and incorporate more innovative teaching methods in the classroom.
3/ In today's oil and gas environment, what are the hot topics from a research standpoint?
I believe better, more efficient technology in unconventional reservoirs will continue to be a hot topic. Much of the optimization work for tight oil and shale gas will focus on hydraulic fracturing and drilling. Oilfields are much more monitored now, as well, so handling and analyzing the huge amounts of data collected will be a challenge to meet. The innovative application of newly engineered materials such as nanoparticles will also continue to be a big push – researchers are investigating ways to use nanoparticles as delivery aids for chemicals in the subsurface, as agents to modify the physical properties of injected and produced fluids, and as tracers to map things like hydraulic fracture geometry.
4/ Having spent more than two decades in this department, what is your favorite memory?
I think some of my best memories are the times I have spent working with my graduate students. I also must admit I am partial to going on geology field trips – those always put a smile on my face.
5/ When you are not leading the department, how do you spend your time outside of petroleum engineering?
One of my favorite pastimes is to frequent local Austin music venues with my wife, Hilary, and listen to our son play in one of his many bands. I also love biking in the greenbelts around Austin, but I do not do it nearly often enough. I do not get out to golf either as much as I like – but I do try to make the annual spring SPE Golf Tournament each year with the “elder” all-stars assembled by Dr. Paul Bommer.