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University of Wyoming Cultivates Advancements in Research

The University of Wyoming continues to cultivate a strong reputation as a major center of research across a spectrum of disciplines in everything from energy to water quality, neuroscience, biomedicine and supercomputing.

By Bill Lewis on February 13, 2014

Research efforts at the University of Wyoming over the past few years have resulted not only in scientific advancements, but also the creation of 15 technology-based spinoff companies that now contribute millions of dollars to the state’s economy.

UW continues to cultivate a strong reputation as a major research center across a spectrum of disciplines from energy to water quality, neuroscience, biomedicine and supercomputing, with the university heavily committed to investing in technology to remain on the leading edge of innovation.

Evidence of that investment can be seen across the Laramie campus and among the university’s academic programs, including a sophisticated stock market trading room at its College of Business, a Reservoir Simulation Lab in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and several state-of-the-art projection rooms in the Classroom Building.

In September 2013, the $25 million Energy Innovation Center opened inside the School of Energy Resources, allowing the university to extend its work in public-private partnerships aimed at the nation’s energy challenges. The building features classroom space, along with state-of-the-art teaching centers, such as a rock physics lab, oil recovery research lab, a coal technology lab and a drilling simulation lab.

“The center is dedicated to the study of enhanced oil recovery, carbon management, advanced coal technology, wind energy and other fields of energy research,” says William Gern, vice president of research and economic development at the University of Wyoming.

For companies drilling for shale petroleum, for example, UW can research the underground flow of oil, gas and even brine water through shale, to ensure that everything possible is extracted from those wells.

“We can also experiment with extractions from small capillaries adjacent to the shale so that companies can extract even more hydrocarbons from the wells,” Gern says.

Watering New Technologies 

UW is conducting research into how water moves in the environment, specifically groundwater flowing through the soil and trees, then evaporating into the atmosphere.

“Water usage is a big necessity in Wyoming for companies that extract minerals from the Earth, so the university is utilizing MRI technology to study how water moves and where it goes,” Gern says. “This conservation research is important for our mineral extraction industries, as well as for municipalities and agriculture interests throughout our state.”

In another water research project, UW is working with the state of Utah to study the entire Colorado River Basin system. Wyoming is a headwater state to the Colorado River system through the Green River and the Wind River mountain range, so the university has developed research computers to formulate highly accurate models to understand movement, flow and usage of the entire river basin system.

Solving Science Problems

UW is becoming one of the most well-regarded computation science universities in the nation. Over the past 15 years, the university has hired 35 to 40 top computational scientists across several disciplines on its campus.

“These are not computer scientists,” Gern says. “These are people who use computers to solve science problems. They develop large computer systems to make highly accurate models of the natural world for better study. As a result, we have amazing molecular biology and environmental science programs at the university.”

Other examples of current university research projects include reversing cancer-associated properties of cells caused by genetic mutations in humans, and reviving dormant and economically depleted coal-bed methane wells. In addition, UW is patenting a technology to remove arsenic from water to make it safer to drink worldwide.

“Our research will hopefully aid mankind and also bolster the economy of Wyoming,” Gern says. “The university works closely with the Wyoming Business Council to discuss what areas of research would be best for UW to pursue, again for the good of mankind and our state’s economy.”

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