PNGE Program Receives Grant for Undergraduate Research


Dr. Alireza Shahkarami, Assistant Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering program, received a $70,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund for Undergraduate Research. Ali Desmend PVT CellThe three-year grant allows Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering students to conduct research titled “An Experimental Investigation of Microemulsion Phase Behavior at High Pressure and High Temperature Conditions.” Dr. Shahkarami’s research proposal aims to investigate the effect of the water/oil ratio, pressure, temperature, and oil composition on surfactant phase behavior. “Through this research, we’re looking to find a way to to be more efficient in the recovery of petroleum from existing wells in order to reduce the need to drill new wells, consequently reducing the environmental footprint of petroleum exploration” explains Dr. Shahkarami.

The ACS Petroleum Research Fund supports fundamental research in the petroleum field. The Undergraduate Research (UR) grants program supports the research of established scientists in the petroleum field and provides financial support for students to become involved in advanced research activities, in preparation for continued study in graduate school or employment. Dr. Shahkarami says “This grant will allow our undergraduate students to apply the theory they learn in the classroom with hands-on experience using the equipment. Forty-five thousand dollars of this grant benefits the students directly for student research wages and travel for conferences.”

The research would utilize the newly acquired Pressure-Volume-Temperature (PVT) cell. The PVT cell is a state of the art apparatus that is used to study the behavior of fluids at the subsurface conditions, such as high pressure and temperature ranges (10,000 psi for pressure and 400 degrees of Fahrenheit). With the value of $200,000, Saint Francis University is one the few schools owning such a sophisticated piece of equipment in Pennsylvania. It’s the only school that utilizes this level of equipment for research with undergraduates.

Desmend Phillips PVTPetroleum and Natural Gas Engineering major, Desmend Phillips, from Northern Cambria, is looking forward to participating in the research this summer. “I chose to attend Saint Francis University because of the personable faculty and the opportunity to engage in research as an undergraduate. This grant opens up doors, and gives me a taste for what a career in research would be like.”


Top Photo: Desmend Phillips and Dr. Shahkarami working with PVT Cell.

Bottom Photo: Desmend Phillips