Early investment, great returns for Oklahoma research
Students and faculty at the TU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences (ENS) have shown that investing in them early benefits the state’s research community, leads to innovation and provides Oklahoma companies with accomplished research professionals.
The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is a state agency formed in 1987 to advance science and technology in the state, specifically partnerships between industry and universities, with more than $165 million grants awarded to Oklahoma researchers.
“OCAST is successful at bringing business and university sectors together, especially smaller industries that may not have big money for research,” said Jim Sorem, senior associate dean and mechanical engineering professor.
At TU, OCAST funding falls into several categories: Nanotechnology Applications Support; Applied Research Support; Research and Development (R&D) Intern Partnerships; and R&D Faculty and Student Intern Partnerships.
“The funding for student interns is fantastic,” Sorem said. “It helps the students get exposed to the industry, get some solid work experience, and earn money that they need.”
Sorem said OCAST funding is especially helpful to younger faculty who need to build their industry contacts as well as their external funding.
“These grants often allow ENS to build long-term relationships among faculty, students and industry,” Sorem said. “These relationships turn into quality work that benefits the state of Oklahoma as a whole. In short, everyone wins.”
Several ENS faculty have received repeated OCAST funding over the past 20 years. Professor of Electrical Engineering Kaveh Ashenayi said he had one of the very first OCAST grants awarded when the program began.
“These programs allow the university the unique and valuable opportunity to provide hands-on experiences for students,” Ashenayi said. “The industrial partners get a chance to build relationships with the university faculty while getting an excellent intern who may someday become their full-time employee.”
In OCAST funding, the grant pays half the cost of the project, while the industry partner pays the other half. This allows smaller firms to participate in research and development.
With six projects receiving OCAST funding, Electrical Engineering Professor Surendra Singh is the ENS faculty member with the most OCAST projects. Singh credits strong industry ties for his success.
“The ENS faculty make a determined effort to have good relationships with local engineering companies,” Singh said. “This makes it easier to place talented students in a real-world environment.”
Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers
A distinguishing characteristic of the college’s academic programs is the opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in meaningful research with professors. Our research programs prepare students for post-graduate work and have led the college to stand out because of the number of Goldwater and National Science Foundation scholarships our students receive.
Our students represent the college well in internal events such as the annual Research Colloquium and Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. Off campus, our students have won numerous awards at technical conferences and competitions for their work. During the summer, our faculty members devote more time to mentoring students in how to research a specific topic. Here are some of the programs:
The college benefits from the leadership and hard work of expert faculty. Not only do they lead their fields in technical knowledge and ongoing projects, they also cultivate a passion for learning in our students.
Throughout the last 80 years our expertise in petroleum education and research has been a point of pride for the college and for the university. Our strong ties to industry have brought significant research funding to the college and enabled us to add a real world aspect to the education that our students receive. Our North Campus facilities are second to none and our researchers lead the field in new areas of innovation.