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Laercio Filipe

Laercio Filipe

Class of 2020 | Petroleum Engineering | Luanda, Angola | Charter Oak Production Co.

When students faced the cancellation of their summer internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ronnie K. Irani Center for Energy Solutions (I-CES), located within in the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy at OU, stepped in to provide new opportunities.

According the college’s website, the I-CES “is a program that provides practical experiences and develops entrepreneurial mindsets for students pursuing energy- and earth-sciences-related degrees. Through externships, student teams work on industry projects provided by sponsoring companies.”

“It’s a unique way of bringing industry into the university and providing some real-world experience,” explained David Ferris, executive director of the I-CES.

Prior to this summer, the externship program was primarily focused on the capstone course in the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering and a couple of summer projects. This summer, the I-CES opened it up to a larger group to aid those who wanted the opportunity, and a total of 21 students who found themselves without internships were able to participate. This was especially valuable as some majors in the college require internship experience for graduation.

One student who participated in the I-CES externship program this summer was Laercio Filipe, who is set to graduate in December with his petroleum engineering degree. Filipe, who moved to the United States from Luanda, Angola, in 2014, first attended Oklahoma City Community College before transferring to OU.

Filipe worked virtually on projects with Charter Oak Production Co., based in Oklahoma City, and said it was a great experience. A key part of the program is connecting with OU professors who serve as mentors throughout the externship.

"The center exists to kind of bridge academia and industry together, and we really live at that intersection."

- Davis Ferris, I-CES executive director

“Some of the mentors are professors for the capstone, and we also had another mentor who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, so he has a lot of experience, especially here in Oklahoma,” Filipe shared. “Sometimes we use knowledge we learned in classes we have already taken, but sometimes there is information we may not know or specific calculations or questions that people from the company ask us to do. We had the mentors there to guide us.”

The program always lands on the guiding principal of providing opportunity for all. According to Ferris, expanding this internship and externship program is another way of providing opportunity.

“The center exists to kind of bridge academia and industry together, and we really live at that intersection” Ferris explained. “Our hope is to continue to provide real-world experience and give students an entrepreneurial mindset, whether you go and create your own company or develop the intrapreneurial skills to be a project generator and idea generator inside a larger company. Whatever path you take, we want to be able to provide that real-world opportunity and experience to help you succeed in your career.”