So, at the beginning of the semester, I decided to change my emphasis from biochemical to petroleum.  I have am very interested in alternative fuels, but I felt as though the classes that I was going to take with my biochemical emphasis were not focused around fuel chemistry that much and were not centered around what I was really interested in.  Even though I am not specifically interested in working with oil, I feel as though this emphasis will teach me a lot about fuels and the energy industry.


Because I changed my emphasis, I had to change my classes as well.  I switched out of Molecular Biology and one of my general education classes, and switched into PTE 461 – Formation Evaluation and PTE 463 – Introduction to Transport Processes in Porous Media.  These are the first two classes that chemical engineers with a petroleum emphasis take.


My PTE 463 class is divided into a 160 minute lecture once a week and a lab section that meets 4 times a semester.  I have never had a three hour lecture before, and it is NOT easy.  Sitting through so much content can be overwhelming.  However, when I work on my homework, I am able to go over the content that was covered in lecture and break it down at a more learnable pace.  The class is actually really interesting.  Right now, we are analyzing how oil, water, and gas flow differently through reservoirs underground.  I am hoping that this class will help prep me for viscous flow in the spring, which I heard is all about fluid flow.

Fluid Flow in PTE 463

My other petroleum is PTE 461 – Formation Evaluation.  Like the other petroleum class, this class meets once a week for 160 minutes.  This class uses information from PTE 463 (PTE 463 is a co-requesite for the class) to analyze reservoirs in a real-life context.  We are spending a lot of time analyzing measurements taken from oil wells around the world and drawing conclusions about the characteristics of these oil reservoirs.  This class is interesting because it really introduces us to the petroleum industry, and gives us an idea of what petroleum companies do.  The only downside to this class is that there is a ton of content to get through, so each week’s homework takes a long time.  However, we are learning a lot.

Confusing, huh?

These petroleum classes are very interesting, even though difficult, and it is nice to take classes in topics that are more specific.  I look forward to using this knowledge in my future.



I am a sophomore majoring in Chemical Engineering, with a biochemical emphasis. I am originally from Sacramento, CA. I am in the USC Marching Band enjoy playing playing trombone. I also enjoy hiking and road biking.


  • Aimie Nura says:

    Can you explain briefly about petroleum engineering?

    • greg says:

      Hi Aimie! I am happy to hear about your interest in petroleum engineering. As you know, my name is Greg Sinclair and I am from Sacramento, CA. I am currently a senior studying Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in Petroleum. On campus, I am in the USC Trojan Marching Band and was section leader for the past two years. I also spent two years working in a research lab studying the combustion properties of fuels.

      My experience in the petroleum engineering program within the Viterbi School of Engineering has been a very positive one and I highly recommend this route if you are interested in going into the oil and gas industry. There is no petroleum engineering major within the engineering school, but as a chemical engineering major or a mechanical engineering major, you have the option of adding petroleum engineering as an emphasis. With this emphasis, you will take a combination of technical classes that introduce you to the world of petroleum engineering.

      I took my first technical classes in the fall of my junior year. One was called Formation Evaluation, and was focused on understanding and analyzing well logs. The other class was about fluid flow through porous media, covering topics like porosity and permeability. Other classes I have taken include Production Engineering and Drilling Technology. The professors that teach these classes are very knowledgeable and some of them are currently working in the field, which gives them a current perspective on the oil and gas industry. I think that this can be very refreshing, because you know exactly what you are getting into when you leave school and enter the field. If you are interested in petroleum engineering, I highly suggest this option. I have attached some documents below for your reference. If you have any other questions, let me know!

      Chemical Engineering (Petroleum emphasis) 4 year class plan
      Mechanical Engineering (Petroleum emphasis) 4 year class plan – another option if you are interested in studying Mechanical Engineering

      • Sophie Pepin says:

        Hi Greg! I am very excited to see your post, I’ve been looking around to find some petroleum engineering students. I decided a couple years ago that I wanted to be a petroleum engineer, and I applied to colleges based on that. Right now, I am deciding between whether Colorado School of Mines and USC for PE. Can you talk a little bit more about your experience with the program? What kind of jobs and internships are you looking at or have worked at? Are you planning on getting your master’s in PE at USC as well? What kind of petroleum research is going on at the university? Thank you, I hope you can answer these!

        • greg says:

          Hi Sophie!

          I am happy to hear about your interest in petroleum engineering. The oil and gas industry is booming right now, and it is a great field to be going into after college. The program within the Viterbi School of Engineering may be a little bit different than petroleum engineering programs at other universities. This is because you cannot explicitly major in petroleum engineering at USC. However, the chemical engineering and the mechanical engineering degree programs both have an option within the major to declare an emphasis in petroleum engineering. I am not able to speak in detail about the mechanical engineering emphasis program, but with the chemical engineering degree program with a petroleum emphasis, you take four petroleum technical classes during your junior and senior years. These classes cover different topics, like drilling and production engineering, and are taught by engineers who are currently working in the field.

          In terms of research, the professors within the chemical and mechanical engineering departments who teach petroleum classes have their own research labs, examining different topics like smart oilfield technology (CiSoft), reservoir characterization, and carbon sequestration. You can read more about the different projects here. Viterbi has some amazing, groundbreaking research going on within the petroleum engineering field, and you have the opportunity to get involved in these projects as an undergrad.

          In terms of my future specifically, I am actually not continuing on with petroleum engineering. I will be instead going to graduate school for nuclear engineering. In terms of jobs and internships, many of the top oil and gas companies look specifically for Viterbi students, because of the great program here. At Viterbi’s Career Fair, held twice a year, companies like Chevron, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Aera Energy, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, and many others all show up to hire students for internships and full time jobs. My junior year, I talked to a representative from Schlumberger at the Viterbi Career Fair. I actually was flown out to Tulsa, Oklahoma that summer to learn more about the company, and ended up being offered a full time position with them. You can read more about my experience with Schlumberger here. There are plenty of opportunities for petroleum engineering – it all depends on how much you want it as an undergrad and if you go after those opportunities.

          I hope this helped answer your questions. Good luck on your college decision!

          ~ Greg