Rocky Mountain Power Presents Two UW Faculty Awards for Economic Development

May 14, 2012
Andy Hansen and Mike Urynowicz
Andy Hansen and Mike Urynowicz received the UW Faculty Service Award for Economic Development.(UW Photo)

Rocky Mountain Power, in partnership with the University of Wyoming, recognized two current UW faculty members with the UW Faculty Service Award for Economic Development.

Andy Hansen, associate provost and professor of mechanical engineering, and Mike Urynowicz, associate professor in the department of civil and architectural engineering, were honored.

"As a company, we're committed to making communities that are stronger, cleaner and safer places to live and work," says Rita Meyer, vice president for Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming. "We appreciate a close relationship with the University of Wyoming and with state and local development organizations to help communities enhance their economic vitality."

These awards foster the creation of employment opportunities for UW graduates and the people of Wyoming.

"Rocky Mountain Power is doing a tremendous service for the university and the state through these awards recognizing faculty entrepreneurs," says Bill Gern, UW vice president for research and economic development. "UW continues its strong efforts in economic development, especially in technology-related business development through the licensing and spin-out of new businesses."

Hansen received the award for his research into modeling multiphase mixtures, which led to the founding in 2000 of Firehole Composites, a company that helps engineers create lighter, stronger, safer and more efficient composite designs through computer analysis. A Wyoming company, Firehole takes its name from a river that originates in Yellowstone Park, but it serves companies -- among them, airplane manufacturer Boeing -- worldwide.

"Watching Firehole develop into a major software provider for the composite material industry has been incredibly gratifying," says Hansen. "Aside from providing critical support to Firehole in its infant years, UW has provided a lifelong foundation for the company through the education of a cadre of outstanding engineers who make up the heart of the organization."

Urynowicz's work includes serving as director for the Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research. The center develops technologies to rejuvenate and extend the production of biogenic natural gas in shallow hydrocarbon reservoirs. In 2011, he founded the startup EnWyo, the goal of which is to license and commercialize technologies to produce secondary biogenic coal-bed natural gas from depleted reservoirs using the microbial systems living within coal seams.

"EnWyo is a small, fledgling company, but we have a very important mission -- adding value to Wyoming's abundant coal resources by commercializing technologies developed at UW," Urynowicz says. "Although we're just getting started, the company would have never been possible without the incredible support that we've received through the Wyoming Research Products Center, Wyoming Technology Business Center, and the Office of Research and Economic Development."

By continuing to provide these awards to faculty, Rocky Mountain Power is taking the lead in recognizing the importance of the research enterprise in the future well-being of the state and region. It also partners with agencies to bring additional resources to attract top companies and high-paying jobs and to help existing companies expand.

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