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UH’s Subsea Program Director Makes Waves in Subsea Education By Valeria Dominguez

kondapi

Phaneedra Kondapi, director of UH’s subsea engineering program, is at the forefront of expanding subsea education.

Kondapi joined the program as an adjunct faculty member in 2011, when UH dove into uncharted waters and launched the nation’s first subsea master’s degree program. With growing demand for people to fill jobs in the offshore industry and no subsea engineering programs in the U.S., the program was born. Today, the program has expanded to UH-Katy, and Kondapi, who now directs the program, has continued to develop innovative ways to prepare engineering students for careers in the offshore industry. He is developing a new degree program aimed to give graduates the flexibility to ride out the periodic industry downturns.

“The inaugural course of the program was Flow Assurance. I was asked to teach it after working in the industry, and I had never taught a class before. We started with that course and slowly it built up. Once we got the paperwork approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, we had lots of industry support,” Kondapi said.

The program aims to attract both students and industry professionals who want a career in subsea engineering. Within three years of its founding, it had 140 students enrolled in the Flow Assurance course during the 2014-15 academic year. Current students can complete the graduate program in three semesters; all classes are offered in the evenings to make it convenient for people already working in the industry.

“We had lots of industry support at the beginning, and students started enrolling right away. Some of the first students who completed the program got jobs immediately,” Kondapi said.

What makes Kondapi stand out is that seven years later, he continues to innovate by striving to make subsea education accessible. This is the first engineering program at UH to be offered fully online. Currently, Kondapi is launching a dual Master of Science degree combining subsea and mechanical engineering. He also created a subsea engineering minor. 

“In this market downturn, students may find challenges getting into the subsea industry, but with a dual program or a minor, they can be versatile and say, I also have another engineering degree,” Kondapi said.

In 2013, Kondapi was awarded the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) International Teaching Excellence Award. The industry expert-turned-professor calls his method of teaching “reversal teaching,” and states it is the best way to prepare students for the work force.

“’How can I teach? It was not, what can I teach?’” Kondapi said, “I felt there was a something missing, and I didn’t want to teach with the standard methods. I take an actual problem from the industry, tell students about the problem and teach them the theory that applies.”

After the success of the subsea engineering program at the UH main campus, it is expanding in the Katy area. With a new building opening May 23, the space will house an engineering college right next to Houston’s Energy Corridor. The building opens this month, May 2018 and classes will begin Fall of 2019. Classes to be offered include systems engineering, computer engineering, construction management and global climate change. Both energy professionals and high school students in the Katy area will have a premiere engineering college in their own backyard.

“We expect energy professionals from the energy corridor to come to the Katy campus. We want to attract a different crowd. Katy has been waiting for an engineering college.” Kondapi said.

From the first subsea engineering program in the U.S. to the addition of a new engineering program in Katy, Kondapi continues making waves by advancing education in the offshore industry.