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Members of the Cockrell School of Engineering community came together last week to celebrate the school's newest state-of-the-art facility, the Gary L. Thomas Energy Engineering Building (GLT). The GLT fosters even more multidisciplinary collaboration across Texas Engineering and further establishes the school as a world leader in energy education and research.

Cockrell School faculty, staff, students, alumni, supporters and friends, along with members of The University of Texas at Austin leadership, attended the ceremony and events. Following remarks from Cockrell School Interim Dean Roger Bonnecaze, UT President Jay Hartzell, petroleum engineering student Brooke Franklin and the building's namesake Gary Thomas, guests toured the spaces and labs inside the GLT — students quickly made themselves at home in their new facility built for collaboration. All speakers along with UT Provost and previous Cockrell School Dean Sharon Wood cut the ribbon in celebration.

"This new building will greatly expand interdisciplinary research and teaching," said Gary Thomas, who graduated with his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering in 1972, at the ceremony. "And we have seen the benefits of integrated disciplines working collaboratively to develop new technologies and methodologies in energy engineering. ... Our energy future depends on Longhorn Nation. And sitting in the heart of the largest energy-producing state in the U.S. — there is no place better than UT and the Cockrell School to take these opportunities and run with them."

Like the Engineering Education and Research Center (EER), which opened in 2017, the GLT is designed not for individual academic departments but for students, faculty and researchers working and studying in multiple areas, bringing the Texas Engineering community together to share ideas and solve the most complex problems we are facing in energy.

Inside the 184,000-square-foot facility, there are flexible teaching labs, multipurpose classrooms, cutting-edge research labs and welcoming study spaces. In labs like the Rock Core Lab, which gives visitors a first-hand look at rock core testing being done by petroleum and geosystems researchers, and other student teaching labs, research and teaching are hand-in-hand, creating an experiential learning opportunity for students pursuing careers in industry. Researchers from mechanical, chemical and petroleum engineering disciplines will work together in the building's innovative research labs.

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In addition, the GLT is the new home for Texas Engineering Executive Education, the Cockrell School's professional development arm, providing a new, modern office for planning and coordinating courses and programs designed for working engineers.

Following tours inside the GLT, the day ended with a panel discussion in the GLT's Hildebrand Lecture Hall and Lounge, which offers incredible views of the UT Tower and stadium. Moderated by chemical engineering professor and director of the UT Energy Institute Brian Korgel, the panel brought together expert faculty and alumni — professors Sheila Olmstead from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Joan Brennecke from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and Cockrell School alumni and energy industry titans Gene Shepherd and Helge Haldorsen — to discuss the future of energy in Texas, the nation and the world.

The Cockrell School will officially open the GLT later this spring as well as celebrate the installation of artist Sarah Oppenheimer's C-010106 installation on the Peyton Yates Family Bridge that connects GLT and EER. Oppenheimer's piece was commissioned by Landmarks, UT's public art program.

GLT opening ceremony

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