Before entering college, petroleum engineering freshman Karan Jerath won the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). Jerath’s success in the science field has garnered him a nomination for the 2016 Forbes Top 30 Under 30 list and is taking him around the globe.
Every year, Intel ISEF invites around 2,000 top young scientists from over 72 countries to compete in the fair. Jerath swept the awards in 2015, winning best of category for his device, which is an improvement to the current methods of handling large oil spills. He also received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. As part of the award, Jareth received $50,000 and a trip to a science fair in a different region. Jerath was given the opportunity to present and compete at the national science fair of India, and he plans to leave for the trip in early December.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Jerath said. “I obviously didn’t expect any of that, and I was just very thankful that my idea was considered.”
Jerath’s project, an oil spill containment device, collects the oil, water and gas associated with a spill and separates them at the source. It is fully automated through temperature, density and pressure sensors positioned throughout and can collect and manage the spill without having to be controlled by an operator. The device was the product of many hours of research and development — more than 800 hours over a span of two years.
“After hearing of the BP spill, I started doing a lot of research because I knew that I kind of wanted to go into petroleum engineering,” Jerath said. “The fact that it also happened in my backyard — because I live around 30 minutes away from the Gulf — really inspired me to do something immediately.”
Jerath’s device was too large to build for the purposes of the competition — if built, it would weigh in at 300 tons and stand 75 feet tall. Since he could not physically construct it, Jerath did his designing and testing on Stoner Pipeline Simulator, a computer modeling program.
Jerath is currently working to find a lab where he can continue his testing and research. Ultimately, he said that he wants to improve the device to the point where it can be implemented.
Theresa Lawrence, Jerath’s high school chemistry teacher and the Science Review Committee member at Friendswood High School, started working with Jerath on his science fair projects four years ago, when he was a freshman in high school.
“I’ve never worked with a student so determined and so interested in taking his ideas to the next level,” Lawrence said.
She said that even while Jerath was hard at work on his own science fair projects, he found time to help the junior high students with their projects.
“He’s very giving,” she said. “He wasn’t just focused on himself.”
After graduation, Jerath said he wants to continue working in petroleum engineering, but he is not sure in what specific capacity.
“I kind of want to go into the entrepreneurial side and at the same time I obviously want to end up working for an oil company,” Jerath said. “I’m still trying to figure it out right now.”
Jerath said he used the science fair process as a medium to find out what he wanted to do career-wise. He said the experience was especially valuable to him as a young researcher in the field of petroleum engineering.
“It really showed me that my ideas were considered at such a young age which is something that I really liked about Intel,” Jerath said. “It didn’t matter how old or young you were, or how big or small your idea was as long as you allowed it to become a reality.”