College Preparation for Research and Development Careers in the Petroleum Industry
- R.L. Perrine (U. Of California)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 37 - 40
- 1963. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 4.3.4 Scale, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 7.7.3 Technology Funding
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This paper discusses education for research and development in the petroleum industry. These activities are characterized by the need to develop creativity and inventiveness, and by the need for persistence to pursue them. General technical competence is also required. The master-pupil educational relationship is used because it is effective, and no effective alternative has been established. Graduate programs are inherently flexible, and are tailored to the individual. The greatest need to maintain quality education of this kind today is a stable source of funds to support the necessary research facilities and full-time student.
Many of today's engineering graduates look on the petroleum industry as a source of good prospects for an interesting and challenging career. Of these individuals, an increasingly large number show an interest in what is usually termed "research and development". The petroleum industry has a history of active research participation. This is shown by the state to which the technological basis of the industry has been developed, the number and kind of publications by industry research scientists and engineers, and by the support given to basic research through media such as the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund and the American Petroleum Institute. In recent years, and particularly since 1950, research and development activity has spread into petroleum production, the domain of the petroleum engineer. With this background, then, it is natural to ask about college preparation for research and development careers in petroleum. Specific questions which can be posed include the following. Should we seek to educate scientists, engineers, or perhaps "engineering-science" engineers? At what level should the educational process end and the practice of research and development begin? How do the needs of this student group differ from the needs of those heading for professional practice as engineers? Before seeking answers to these specific questions, however, it is best to agree on some rational description of what is to be included within "research and development", and what is not.
What is Research and Development?
It would probably prove impossible to get more than one qualified individual to agree, within a period less than several years, on a single, simple definition of "research". For this reason we shall avoid the problem of strict definition. Instead, we will repeat a descriptive quotation which characterizes research activity quite accurately, and with which almost everyone engaged in research and development will agree. From this statement we can then deduce the primary characteristics of research and proceed to further logical conclusions. The quotation is attributed to the late C.E.K. Mees, director of research for Eastman Kodak Co.
Research is a gamble. It cannot he conducted according to the rules of efficiency engineering. Research must be lavish of ideas, money, and time. The best advice is, don't quit easily, don't trust anyone's judgment but your own, especially don't take any advice from any commercial person or financial expert and finally, if you really don't know what to do, match for it. The bet person to decide what research work shall be done is the man who is doing research. The next best is the head of the department. After that you leave the field of best persons and meet increasingly worse groups. The first of these is the research director, who is probably wrong more than half the time. Then comes a committee, which is wrong most of the time. Finally, there is the committee of company vice presidents, which is wrong all the time. From this statement we deduce the two necessary aspects of what is properly termed research. 1. Research is independent, creative work toward the solution of problems; work with ideas that may yet be tentative and ill-formed; work that necessarily may be recklessly at variance with past, established understanding. 2. Research requires perseverance; the solution of research problems requires time for continued thought and effort, perhaps far past the point where the commercial-minded person would concede failure.
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