Posted by Matt Register

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D. the director of Turbomachinery Laboratory discusses the turbomachinery field as well as well as the past, present, and future of the TurboLab show.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.


Matt Register: Hey guys, welcome back to the show. Texas Business Radio, texasbusinessradio.com is the website. We’re down here at the George R Brown, like we talked about last segment. George R Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas, at the 47th Turbo Machinery and 34th Pump Symposia, that’s a mouthful. That is a show brought to you by Texas A & M and their engineering department, and the Turbo Lab specifically at Texas A&M, in their engineering department, and I’ll tell you what, we have the Director of the Turbo Lab here, Dr. Eric Petersen. Welcome to the show sir.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Welcome, thank you.

Matt Register: So tell us a little bit about the Turbo Machinery Lab. What in the world do we have going on here?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right, so the Turbo Machinery Laboratory is a research center within the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, and as the research part of that we’re heavily involved with the turbo machinery industry and research related to that, and the particular meeting here has sprung off of the relationship that we have through the research with local industry. And really, international industry all related to the turbo machinery.

Matt Register: Well you’ve only been doing this now 47 years, right? So this is a pretty new thing for Texas A&M. Talk to me a little bit about that relationship. A&M is the educator of a lot of these engineers that are working that are working this industry, right? But you’re also the research arm that does a lot of research and has a lot of the innovations that come into this industry.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right.

Matt Register: How did that happen? And what do you see going forward with this?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right, it happened several years ago, in terms of specific problems that came up in the industry, that needed to be solved and at that time Texas A&M was already a leader in the turbo machinery research so they had the tools and the expertise to solve some of those problems, so a natural relationship sprung up. And this symposium is sprung up from that, in the sense that it’s a way to get all the industry leaders together in one place to help each other solve problems in a non-competitive way, with Texas A&M kind of bringing everybody together.

Matt Register: Well this isn’t just the turbine guys, right? This is all the ancillary and tertiary businesses associated with that, so you have all of their vendors, all of their suppliers, all of their testers and consult … you got all kinds of folks here, right?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right, right.

Matt Register: So how has this grown over the years.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Yeah it’s grown quite a bit over the years, and at it’s core, what we mean by turbo machinery it’s a device that’s used to pump a fluid from point A to point B, right? And that of course in the oil and gas industry, that’s what you need to move the fluid, so there’s a turbo machine involved. It’s really at the heart of all this. And then of course, there’s all the ancillary companies and organizations that work with oil and gas. So oil and gas is a big industry, it involves all these people and then the turbo machinery components are at the center of this.
There’s also a separate part of this, which is power generation. So turbo machine is used to generate power in many applications, from jet engine all the way to stationery power that gives us electricity that powers the cameras and the phones and things that everybody’s using right now.

Matt Register: Well, and I’ll tell you what, you talk about rotating equipment, that’s pretty wide range of the economy of Texas for sure, and the nation, right? How many exhibitors are here? Because it’s in the [hundred 00:03:30], I mean this is a big show.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Yeah, we have, I think the current number now is 365 booths here. All exhibiting for the symposium this week.

Matt Register: Interesting, and that’s pumps, that’s gear boxes, that’s turbine, that’s … and all the ancillary suppliers and businesses that go along with that. Now this is your first year as the Director of the Turbo Lab. Talk to me about that, what is your background and how is it you decided this is what you wanted to do?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right, so professionally I’m currently a faculty member in the College of Engineering, within the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at Texas A&M University. So I’ve been at Texas A&M for almost 11 years now, and my research has always been within the Turbo Machinery Laboratory, as the center in the College of Engineering. I became the Director of the Turbo Machinery Laboratory in March, succeeding Dr. Derek Childs, who retired earlier in the year.

Matt Register: Sure. Well and since then what changes can we expect over the next couple of years? I mean, you know, Dr. Childs was there for quite a while. You’re coming in as a new guy. This is an industry that is, there’s a lot of technological advancements coming up, right? Technology is changing a whole lot in this industry, what is the focus of your research? And what do you see changing over the next several years?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Yeah, well in terms of the symposium itself, at least in the near term things are working really well right now, so in terms of moving the symposium or changing it in any way, we really don’t need to. I think this is really –

Matt Register: You just want to keep the hurricanes out of here, [crosstalk 00:04:53] because last year it was delayed because of the hurricane, right?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right, we’re going to keep it going as long as the weather’s nice. I think things are going that way, but what we want to be aware of are changes in the industry. A lot of times that’s driven by the industry, and that’s why this is such a unique conference in that it’s driven by the industry participation, so even though Texas A&M brings everybody together we have advisory committee’s of industry participants who help guide us in the direction of where the technology’s going and they help screen, for example, the technical content that comes to this meeting.
As well as keep an eye out for what’s new and important, and making sure that as they rotate members on and off these committees, that we’re getting the most up to date companies and representatives of the industry. So, in some ways as being the Director of the Turbo Lab it’s not necessarily my independent decision and where we’re going in the new technology, because it’s we need the feedback from the industry and that’s what makes this such a …

Matt Register: So it is end user driven on what the subject of your research-

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Exactly.

Matt Register: … not the other way around, correct?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: That makes it different from many other technical meetings that have academic participation, in that it’s not the academics driving the research, it’s actually the industry that’s driving the meeting and we’re kind of helping keep things together and give the university flavor, in terms of presentations and technical content.

Matt Register: Sure, interesting stuff. What is the easiest way, if somebody wants to learn a little bit more about turbo lab, about this show, what’s the easiest way for them to do that?

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: I think to go directly to the Turbo Lab website, which is the one that you have right here.

Matt Register: Yeah, turbolab.tamu.edu, turbolab.tamu.edu.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Right.

Matt Register: That’s a mouthful. We’re going to have it posted there on texasbusinessradio.com, if you’re driving and can’t take notes.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: And really, you know and with today, you go to Texas A&M University, College of Engineering, you’ll find the Turbo Lab.

Matt Register: Yeah, well and this show has been going on a long time, like I said. This is the 47th Turbo Show. 34th, the Pump Show is kind of attached to it, 34th time they’ve done the Pump show. Interesting show, big show, almost 400 hundred exhibitors here. I mean there’s a lot of folks here, so come on down to the George R Brown and see it, exciting stuff. Dr. Eric Petersen, Director of the Turbo Lab at Texas A&M, thank you very much for joining us.

Eric L. Petersen, Ph.D.: Thank you Matt, pleasure to be here.

Matt Register: Guys, we’re going to be back. We gotta take a quick break. We’ll be back right on the other side of the break, with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio, don’t go anywhere.

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About the Author
Matt Register

Matt Register

In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.

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