Jon Olson Named Chair of Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

December 01, 2014

Dr. Jon Olson, who currently holds the George H. Fancher Professorship in Petroleum Engineering and has spent 20 years as a faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed chair of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (PGE) in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Olson earned bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame before receiving his Ph.D. in applied earth sciences at Stanford University. He has extensive expertise in both geology and engineering. He will assume the position as chair on Jan. 1, 2015, succeeding Dr. Tad Patzek, who is stepping down after leading the department for six years.

“I am extremely excited about the leadership that Jon will bring as chair of the department,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School. “He is an authority in petroleum and geosystems engineering, and he is one of the Cockrell School’s most dedicated teachers and researchers.”

Because of his diverse academic background and his research partnerships with colleagues across the university, Olson will bring a collaborative approach to leadership that includes reaching across UT Austin disciplines and schools. He has been internationally recognized for his research in reservoir geomechanics, hydraulic fracturing, naturally fractured reservoir characterization and unconventional resources. He currently has strong ties with the Jackson School of Geosciences as the co-principal investigator of an interdisciplinary industrial affiliates program, Fracture Research and Application Consortium, which brings together 20 companies and raises approximately $1 million a year.

“It is an honor to step into the PGE department chair role,” Olson said. “We are in an exciting and transformational period, with historic gains in energy supply pioneered by domestic operators and greater public discussion of environmental stewardship, which is integral to responsible oil and gas operations. Alongside our faculty and staff, I look forward to graduating the next generation of leaders who will produce innovative solutions to society’s future energy problems.”

After joining the PGE faculty in 1995, Olson became faculty advisor and chair of the interdisciplinary geosystems engineering and hydrogeology undergraduate program and later took on the same role for the petroleum engineering undergraduate program.

Olson is currently serving as a 2014-15 Distinguished Lecturer for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, traveling the world to discuss emerging oil and gas technology with industry professionals.

On Jan. 1, he will take the helm of a department that is considered one of the most prestigious petroleum engineering programs in the world, with 22 faculty members and more than 730 students. The department’s petroleum engineering graduate and undergraduate programs are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report national rankings, and entry-level salaries for its graduates are the highest among any engineering major. Additionally, PGE faculty members and their collaborators are world leaders in petroleum-related research.