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If you’re a current or past client of the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), you may not realize that student employees are working alongside our researchers to provide you with the critical information you need. Employing and training students are long-standing traditions at the EERC. The students receive a commensurate salary and/or academic credit for work performed at the EERC, but even more valuable than that, working at the EERC allows students to gain real-world experience that will support them in their academic studies and in future jobs.

“It’s a win-win situation for the University, the EERC, the students, and our clients,” said EERC Director Tom Erickson. “Students are supervised and mentored by research and administrative staff while supporting existing research or investigating new research areas, building experimental equipment, or perhaps writing white papers for clients.”

The EERC usually has at least 20 student employees working in research areas, Procurement, Facilities, the Library, and other areas. Several UND students who were hired at the EERC last semester talked about the value of their experiences. Most of them plan to continue working here as they pursue their degrees.

Ian Feole and Faye Ricker worked on the EERC Oil and Gas Group’s residual oil zone project, an effort to identify new oil prospects based on hydrocarbon migration. Feole is a senior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, pursuing a Geological Engineering degree. He is assisting in the development of a comprehensive 3-D model of the Williston Basin. Ricker, a master’s degree student in Geology from Starke, Florida, researched the current and paleo heat flow in the Willison and Powder River Basins as part of an effort to develop a regional model for identification of residual oil zones.

“The work I did at the EERC was highly relevant to my own graduate research, and the access to the facilities and expertise here was a great advantage,” Ricker said.

Caitlin Gangelhoff is a senior in Criminal Justice from Bemidji, Minnesota. She is serving as a Safety Intern in the Environment, Health, and Safety Office assisting with developing safety procedures, understanding and applying policy regarding hazardous materials, and performing safety inspections.

A junior from St. Paul, Minnesota, majoring in Chemistry, Biology, and Forensic Science, Brianna Gysbers is working in the EERC Process Chemistry and Development Laboratory on a variety of different pieces of analytical equipment.

“This experience will help me learn how to use the equipment I’m learning about in class and give me the work experience I need for a future in the Forensics field,” said Gysbers.

Whitney Page, a junior in Petroleum Engineering from Bottineau, North Dakota, worked on projects with the EERC’s Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership evaluating history-matched reservoir simulation results, well logs, and other reservoir surveillance data for an oil field undergoing enhanced oil recovery.

“As a Research Assistant at the EERC, I had the opportunity to work with industry experts who shared extensive knowledge in reservoir engineering, use of new software, and project planning and execution,” said Page. “My experience helped me develop engineering skills to better prepare me as an industry professional.”

Originally from Colombia, South America, Gloria Rodriguez said that she now calls Grand Forks her hometown. She is a sophomore in Business and Public Administration Information Systems majoring in Networking. She is working in the EERC Research Information Systems (RIS) Group programming the EERC’s Web site.

“Working here gives me the chance to learn new skills and improve other ones. Every day, I go home with something new that I have learned. This job is giving me the tools to succeed on my career path—not just for building strong hard skills but soft skills such as team work and peer collaboration,” Rodriguez noted.

The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from and value the mentor–student relationship.

“One of the things that I really like about working with students is the sense of excitement and eagerness that they bring to the projects,” said John Hurley, Senior Research Advisor and mentor to two of the EERC’s new student employees, Garrett Georgeson and Subin Shahukhal.

Georgeson is a junior in Mechanical Engineering minoring in Mathematics. The Crystal, Minnesota, native is specializing in Material Science and Manufacturing, which makes his work developing a new process to produce turbine engine components with better mechanical properties and overall life cycles particularly relevant.

Shahukhal, who is from Kathmandu, Nepal, is in the final year of his master’s degree studies in Mechanical Engineering.

“I am working on setting up and testing a laboratory system that will hydraulically fracture reservoir rock plugs to better understand hydraulic fracturing in the field,” he said. “This has been a great opportunity to try to solve real-world engineering problems under the guidance of an expert.”  

The benefits to students of practical, guided work experience can be immediate and life-changing. 

“In addition to their valuable contributions to our research projects, students who engage in a mentored work experience are far more likely to stay at UND, graduate on time, and encounter better job opportunities upon graduation,” said Erickson.