Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Wen Song, who recently graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Energy Resources Engineering, is joining the Hildebrand Department this spring as an assistant professor.

A rising star in subsurface systems, Song will conduct innovative research on effective, economic, and sustainable petroleum recovery. In addition, she will teach two courses this year on small-scale fluid flow and primary recovery. We sat down with Song to learn more about her research interests, what excites her about the energy future and her passions outside of the lab.

wen song web

1/ What inspired you to start your petroleum engineering career in academia, particularly at UT PGE?
Access to reliable energy underlies our society’s most pressing challenges in health, the environment, and poverty. Petroleum resources play a dominant role in our current and future energy infrastructure. I am inspired to help address our global energy challenges through my research and through educating students who will become leaders in the field. In particular, I was drawn to UT PGE because of the passion and enthusiasm that radiates from the PGE students, faculty, and staff in developing solutions towards addressing our challenges in energy, and, more specifically, in petroleum engineering. The spirit is infectious and I am excited to join the UT PGE family!

2/ How would you describe your teaching style?
Teaching is one of the most direct ways for me to impact the petroleum engineering profession and for me to learn from its future leaders. I aim to inspire curiosity and passion towards energy, and to teach so that students can apply their classroom knowledge towards solving the problems that they will face in their careers. In this pursuit, my courses provide fundamental understanding of the engineering science principles and its derivations and assumptions. My teaching style tends to be didactic and encourages critical thinking in applying the fundamental principles to problems beyond the classroom.

3/ What will be your research focus?
Subsurface systems such as petroleum reservoirs and CO2 storage sites span several length scales, from the field-scale (~ km) to the fundamental pore-scale (~ nm to ~ μm) that ultimately dictates our ability to recover petroleum resources. My research aims to delineate the fundamental pore-scale transport dynamics that underlie petroleum recovery and environmental remediation. Specifically, I integrate experimental microfluidics and geochemistry with theoretical understanding from petroleum engineering, fluid mechanics, surface chemistry, and thermodynamics to develop predictive models for effective, economic, and sustainable petroleum recovery.

4/ What most excites you about the future of energy?
We are at an important crossroads in energy, reconciling the ever-evolving needs of energy reliability, economics, and sustainability with our existing energy infrastructure that is largely dependent upon petroleum resources. This is an exciting time, especially in energy, because of the diverse portfolio of energy resources that are being developed and technologies that are being introduced at scale. Importantly, petroleum resources remain a key component of our energy mix moving forward, both in maintaining leadership in the U.S. and in lifting developing nations out of poverty around the world. I am excited to help improve our ability in managing these resources and to educate the next generation of leaders in the engineering profession.

5/ What are your hobbies and passions outside of the lab?
I enjoy spending time in nature through hiking and revisiting those experiences through painting. Growing up in Calgary, Canada, my proximity to the Rocky Mountains enabled an early passion for the mountains and the natural environment. This exposure ultimately inspired my passion towards my academic interests in energy and the subsurface. I look forward to exploring the natural world around the Austin area!

You can follow Dr. Song and the research projects in her lab on Twitter through @SongLabUT