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UW Energy Graduate Initiative
“The energy GA initiative affords UW the opportunity to support important energy-related projects while raising the stature of graduate education by recruiting outstanding incoming graduate students,” - Andy Hansen, associate provost for undergraduate and graduate studies. “The initiative also represents a significant contribution to UW’s drive toward developing a Tier 1 engineering program with a focus on the unique needs of Wyoming.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in earth science from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Robert Drapeau knew he wanted to further his study of the interaction of surface water and groundwater.
Meanwhile, at the University of Wyoming, Thijs Kelleners, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, was looking for a graduate student to help with his research on the impact of ponds created by coal-bed methane discharge water in the Powder River Basin.
When Kelleners saw Drapeau’s graduate school application – one of five the Illinois native submitted to programs at universities across the country – Kelleners had a good idea he’d found the student he was looking for. Drapeau’s high score on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), combined with his specific area of interest, put him at the top of Kelleners’ list.
“I chased him a little bit,” recalls Kelleners, a six-year member of the faculty of UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I had this funded project, and I really needed the student. He seemed like the perfect guy.”
After being personally contacted by Kelleners, Drapeau “found out this project was almost exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to go somewhere different, and I decided this was the best place for me,” he says.
He enrolled in UW’s graduate school in 2011 and has spent the last year immersed in research on a topic of great interest to the coal-bed methane industry in Wyoming.
It didn’t hurt that Kelleners had an attractive stipend to offer for Drapeau’s graduate assistantship. Drapeau is one of more than a dozen UW graduate students recruited under UW’s Energy Graduate Assistantship (GA) Initiative. Funded with a $6.2 million appropriation of Abandoned Mine Lands funds by the 2011 Wyoming State Legislature, the nationally competitive stipends and fellowships are attracting new students to UW who might otherwise attend other institutions.
The initiative also is driving important research in energy sciences that will pay dividends for Wyoming. Working in four UW colleges and the School of Energy Resources, the graduate assistants are studying topics that include natural gas production economics, storage of different types of energy, carbon dioxide storage, enhanced coal technologies, wind farm design and enhanced oil recovery.