The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGA) Gold Medal.


 

I'm Michael Pyrcz, an Associate Professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.  I teach and conduct research on spatial statistical modeling, data analytics, geostatistics and machine learning. 

MICHAEL J. PYRCZ, Ph.D., P.Eng.,  Associate Professor
H.B. Harkings, Jr. Professor of Petroleum Engineering 

Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geoscience

The University of Texas at Austin

The Move to Professor

 

I just joined UT Austin in the Summer of 2017 after 13 years of experience as a Reservoir Modeling Research Scientist, Team Leader and Program Manager in Industry.  I left a successful career in industry to be a professor.  It has been a very challenging time to adjust to academia, but I'm motivated.  Actually this has been my dream for a while.  To understand this you need to know a little about me.


I was a first generation university student from a low-income family with other compounding issues such as alcoholism in the family.  I was working full during high school.  One night I stopped at a gas station to fuel up my 1978 Mustang II.  Before you think it, no, I went to High School in the early nineties, remember I was poor so the car was old.

1978 Mustang II very similar to my first car.  Image from  www.thoughtco.com.

Gussow Reservoir Modeling conference, with the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, participated as a session chair and speaker, Lake Louise, Canada (2018).

Why have this website?

 

This is one of my efforts to participate in my scientific community.  Science is a social activity and I look for all possible channels of communication.  I love to lecture / teach at Universities, chair sessions and talk at conferences, and review and publish papers.


Motivation:


Interested in similar scientific topics?  Here's my research interests.  Want to do graduate studies?


Want to get a hold of me to ask a scientific question?  Here's my contact information. 


Doing a literature review and need citations to some of my previous work?  Here's my publication list.  Let me know what you are doing.  I'm interested.  


Got questions on research opportunities, a potential future collaborator etc.? I'm always happy to discuss. 


No one does it alone.  We all got started somewhere.  In the end it will be the great relationships that make our careers meaningful.

Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, Delta Basin (2015) during annual consortium meeting. Appreciation to Prof. Chris Paola and students. Note: broken wrist from Taekwondo sparring. 

My Courses Are Available Online 


Did you hear that I put all my lectures online for anyone to benefit from them?  Yes, I do.  This provides a useful resource to my students.  They use the recorded lectures for examination review along with beyond-the-term access to evergreen lecture materials to help them with the senior design projects, internships and at their full-time jobs.  I started doing this last term on request from my undergraduate students.  To me it all makes sense.  It’s all about reaching more people through outreach.  I’m virtually in more gas stations!

The course materials are available for anyone to follow along.  The lectures are recorded and put on YouTube.  My YouTube channel is GeostatsGuy Lectures:



The numerical exercises, workflows and demonstrations, code and datasets (synthetic made for the classes) are available on GitHub under the account, GeostatsGuy. 



So far, I have posted my entire PGE 337, undergraduate class, Introduction to Data Analytics, Geostatistics and Machine Learning.  I will post the graduate level PGE 383 Subsurface Modeling, graduate class as I make it and teach it Spring 2019.

While I was fueling my car, I started a random conversation with a person fueling their vehicle on the other side of the pump.  Recall, I am Canadian, so talking to strangers is something I do.  Out of the blue, this individual asks me a funny question, 'Do you know how this engine works?' I was struck silent by the unexpected inquiry.  This, soon to be realized, student engineer from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, then proceeded to explain the Carnot theoretical cycle and the benefit of materials engineering to increase the maximum operating temperature.  I was hooked.  Applied science to impact society! I had never met an engineer in my life, but that evening I realized that I was an engineer. 

That week I made an appointment to visit the guidance counselor at Leduc Composite High School.  It took only a quick check of my grades to hear the terse response, "university is not for everyone Michael".  That statement hit me like a tonne of bricks.  I realized that I needed to make big changes in my life.  I immediately informed my employer that I would have to significantly cut my hours.  I made a lot of sacrifices with less money, but I knew it was worth it.  As a result, I was able to stay awake in school and have the time to complete the homework.  I graduated with grades sufficient for acceptance at the University of Alberta in an engineering B.Sc.  At university, I was home!  I was surrounded by so many amazing peers and faculty.  I caught fire and graduated #1 in my Engineering Class (receiving the APEGA Gold Medal).  It was hard, I went hungry sometimes and often I couldn’t afford my books.  I struggled to pay rent, tuition and everything else!  There was always help, great professors a brother-in-law that helped out at a couple of critical moments. 
















The original question is, why did I become a professor?  So, was this a long tangent?  Not at all, if you consider what I learned through this experience.  Lives are changed with education.  I escaped the low-income situation of my childhood, a narrowed perspective and have enjoyed an amazing career with so many opportunities to learn and to provide for my own family of five.  All it took was one conversation, one cold evening in Leduc, Canada to open my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity.  In my mind, as a professor, my opportunity to participate in outreach and mentoring and to impact lives is multiplied.  For example, I stood in front of 100 at-risk high school students recently to introduce engineering as an option.  I heard first-hand that for many of those students I was the first engineer that they had met.  Whenever I work with students, I remember that gas station.  When I say, “What starts here, changes the world.”, I know it.

In case you are wondering, yes, I did contact that councilor after I completed my Ph.D.  I said thank you for the dose of reality.