For my STEP project, I did a Co-op at LyondellBasell at their Houston refinery. I spent 15 weeks last fall semester working as a full-time electrical engineer in the reliability department at the refinery. My main responsibilities were to troubleshoot, engineer, implement and/or improve process measurement and instrumentation, control systems, safety systems, process analyzers, process control computers and networks.
Through this experience, I was able to get a taste of what the oil and gas industry is like for electrical engineers. Electrical engineers in oil and gas are mainly concerned with the reliability of the plant. This means that we are supposed to be monitoring critical systems using instrumentation techniques and replacing expired parts out in the field. I was able to relate what I had learned in my classes to real-life applications through projects that I worked on. While this experience has taught me a lot of things that I enjoy doing as an engineer, it also opened my eyes to things that I do not like. For example, working in oil and gas has helped me to realize that I am interested in working in a more technology related field and that I would love to live in Texas later in my life.
The projects that I had worked on during my term led me to the transformation that I would like to work in a more technology related field. For my projects, I worked with machines and systems that have been around for the past 70 years. Equipment such as heat exchangers, pumps, cokers, distillation towers, valves, etc. My job was to maintain these old technologies by replacing them out in the field with more up to date equipment. I want to work in a field where I will be working with others to produce cutting-edge technologies in order to benefit the human race. For example, renewable energies, robotics, artificial intelligence, semiconductors are all fields of electrical engineering that I realized would be a better fit with what my aspirations are.
Another reason that has driven me to consider a technology field of work is that in the oil and gas industry, electrical engineers do not have much of an impact on the end product. Chemical engineers are the ones who contribute to the end product because they work more with the process of making oil and gas. They make the most impact on the end product and this has made me realize that I need to be working in a job that parallels this. Power, distribution, technology, or any other field that allows the opportunities for electrical engineers to shine is what will satisfy me more in the long run.
During my STEP project, I was able to travel all over Texas. I explored Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. I fell in love with the city of Austin and I really would like to live there later in my life. One of my good friends who graduated from OSU last year currently lives there. I visited him and showed me around the city. I learned that the city is a technology hub and full of ambitious and young people. I would love to work at one of these tech companies and live in Austin later in my life. I would not have been able to get this experience if it had not been for my STEP signature project.
This transformation of understanding that I would like to live in Austin and work at a technology company is very important to understand that I want to do with my career. It has helped me to set goals for myself in order to achieve what interests me. I am also now able to decide what classes to take at Ohio State that will help push me in that direction. My STEP project at LyondellBasell in Houston, TX has taught my so much and was such a valuable experience. It has changed the course of my career and my life goals.