Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building Raises Bar for Immersive Learning Environments

If you’re a visual person, be warned: the new Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building may cause sensory overload.

Step inside and you’re greeted by a life-sized pumpjack, a deep sea drill bit and a two-story rock wall stratified with geologic formations. And that’s just the lobby. Further in, the building is festooned with digital signs, interactive touch screens, and a curved, 23-foot cinematic display that dwarfs the front of a classroom.

But designers didn’t stop there. Everywhere you turn, the skin of the building has been peeled away to show the plumbing, ventilation and mechanical systems that make it tick. You can even see how the elevator works, while you wait for it to arrive.

In short, the entire building is a visual laboratory of sorts, and it’s just the kind of show-and-tell facility that department head Marshall Watson had in mind to inspire the next generation of petroleum engineers.

“Ever since 2006, when I started teaching at Texas Tech, I have dreamed of a facility that would allow me to teach from a visual aspect,” said Watson, chairman of the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering. “I wanted so much to bring to the class what I’ve done in the field for the last 30 years. This new facility fulfills that dream.”

Texas Tech University System administrators officially opened the newest addition to the Texas Tech University campus today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Construction of the new research and teaching facility topped $22.8 million and was funded entirely by industry and private contributions.

“Texas Tech’s petroleum engineering department is one of the best in the country and now is home to one of the best facilities in the country as well,” said Chancellor Kent Hance. “Thanks to so many alumni, friends and donors, this state-of-the-art building is not only a beautiful addition to our campus but also will allow us to educate more students, expand research efforts and make an even bigger impact on the petroleum energy industry.”

The building is named in recognition of a lead gift from project benefactor and Texas Tech University graduate Terry Fuller, following a long-standing practice of honoring donors who contribute more than half the construction costs of a new building.

Fuller is CEO, president and founder of Phoenix PetroCorp, an independent oil and gas company, and serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Texas Tech Foundation, a non-profit charged with supporting and promoting the Texas Tech University System and its universities.

Fuller received his degree in Petroleum Engineering in 1977. His wife, Linda, also graduated from Texas Tech, and they’ve been loyal to their alma mater ever since.

Together, the Fullers have established a scholarship endowment in every college and every varsity sport at Texas Tech University. In 2009, they spearheaded renovations to the Terry and Linda Fuller Track and Field Complex that enabled Texas Tech to host the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the first time.

For them, a new home for the department that gave Terry his start was just another way for the two of them to continue their tradition of giving back to Texas Tech.

“Texas Tech’s petroleum engineering department is one of the best in the country and now is home to one of the best facilities in the country as well.”

Kent HanceChancellor
Texas Tech University System

Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 petroleum engineering departments in the nation, the Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering focuses its curriculum on production, operations and completion as it prepares new petroleum engineers for the growing worldwide energy industry.

Construction on the more than 42,000-square-foot facility began in October of 2012, and gives the department room to grow as demand for its graduates continues to increase. Design features of the new building prioritize hands-on, integrated learning spaces that give budding petroleum engineers a taste of the equipment, techniques and challenges they’ll face in the field.

“The Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building is truly a state-of-the-art engineering building focused on hands-on learning and visualization,” said Al Sacco Jr., dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering. “It will help prepare our students to be at the forefront of production engineering and will produce future energy leaders for the state of Texas and the world.”

Situated at the northeast corner of the Engineering Key, the Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Building fits right in with the iconic, Spanish Renaissance architecture that has become a hallmark of the Texas Tech University campus.

Designed for sustainable operations, the facility includes energy efficient LED lighting and displays; storage tanks for reusing storm water runoff; and a range of other environmental and energy-efficient features designed to meet the criteria for LEED accreditation. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Outside, an archway-lined courtyard features an amorphous, steel sculpture by internationally-recognized artist Juanjo Novella of Spain, his first commission in the United States. Titled “Fountain,” the newest addition to the Texas Tech University System’s public art collection conjures images of swirling water, geologic formations or oil flowing through pipes. Despite it’s free-flowing appearance, the massive structure cut from inch-thick steel won’t be going anywhere soon.

Now that students and faculty have moved into their new building, the same could be said for Texas Tech’s spot among the nation’s best petroleum engineering programs.

It’s not going anywhere, either.

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