Tech Establishes Research Center with Saudi Engineering University

Earlier this semester, Georgia Tech signed an agreement to form a joint research center with an engineering university in Saudi Arabia – the Center for Energy and Geo Processing.

The Center (abbreviated CeGP), created in partnership with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), will facilitate research and academic collaborations, personnel exchanges and industry partnerships between the two institutions. KFUPM provided an initial investment of $8 million in funding for research on the Atlanta campus for six years, mirroring a similar effort on KFUPM’s campus in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Associate Professor Ghassan AlRegib in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering will direct the Center in Atlanta, and Associate Professor and Chair of the KFUPM Department of Electrical Engineering Ali Al-Sheikhi will direct the Center in Dhahran. Research will focus on applying advanced signal processing theories to energy-related signals and systems, with an emphasis on seismic data acquisition, processing, imaging and interpretation.

“We’ll be applying advanced digital signal processing to geo signals such as seismic data, with the goal of reducing the false alarm rate for drilling,” said AlRegib. A primary goal of the research is to improve the accuracy of drilling and reduce its cost; a secondary goal will be to make other overall decisions about drilling, such as how it could be automated or less labor intensive.

“Eventually we’d like to expand into other types of energy, such as smart grid, applying digital signal processing to smart grids, making them more intelligent and collecting more intelligent information,” added AlRegib.

Besides the research focus within the Center, the educational track is of critical importance. The Center will have a number of educational projects with a focus on creating new courses that emphasize innovation and research, as well as student training for the job market.

Other objectives of the collaboration include creating a hub for seismic processing and energy informatics, producing industry standard inventions and technologies, and creating an international industry consortium with a focus on innovative signal processing. Some expected outcomes are new patents, ventures, software packages and textbooks.

The industrial participation in the Center’s operation is another key element where scientists from related industries will be approached to participate in different activities at the Center at both locations.

Groups at both Tech and KFUPM will assist in overseeing operations and providing recommendations to AlRegib and Al-Sheikhi. Tech’s committee is initially composed of AlRegib; Steve McLaughlin, Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; James McClellan, chair of the School’s Digital Signal Processing Technical Interest Group and John and Marilu McCarty Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering; and Larry Jacobs, professor and associate dean of the College of Engineering.

The agreement to create the Center, which was signed in August, comes after two years of visits and collaboration, beginning in 2010 with a joint workshop in Dhahran. In April, Provost Rafael Bras served as a keynote speaker at KFUPM’s 50th anniversary celebrations. In addition, Tech hosts KFUPM exchange students, primarily in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Institute President G. P. “Bud” Peterson recently accepted an offer to serve on KFUPM’s International Advisory Board.

Both schools will continue to host each other’s students, faculty, and researchers and conduct biannual joint workshops.

“The students at KFUPM come from the top one percent of applicants in Saudi Arabia,” said AlRegib. “It’s the leading engineering school in Saudi Arabia and is selective.”

Much like Georgia Tech, KFUPM’s engineering focus is complemented by its focus on science and management. KFUPM is strategically located in proximity to the country’s industrial cities and oilfields.

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