University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Engineering Student Berghe Thrives In Pitt-Johnstown's Campus Environment

Gabriel Berghe earned second place in the Petrochemicals, Fuel and Energy category at the National Meeting for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Pictured at AIChE (from left): Dr. Shivkumar Bale, John Sengia, Gabriel Berghe, Denis Johnson, David Badamo, and Dr. Ramesh Singh

Pitt-Johnstown junior chemical engineering student Gabriel Berghe said the University’s educational standards, up-close instruction, and numerous opportunities are keys to his success. The combination of those factors drew him to Pitt-Johnstown and enabled him to excel on a national stage.

“I live in Pittsburgh, however, I chose Pitt-Johnstown because I could receive the same quality education with smaller class sizes,” said the Brashear High graduate. “These smaller class sizes are very important for me because I believe there is better communication between professors and students. Each class can be tailored specifically to that semester, improving the overall understanding of each student.

“Throughout my academic career at Pitt-Johnstown, I have been encouraged to pursue my goals and have been given every opportunity to achieve these goals. For each hurdle that came my way, there has always been a staff member who sought to see me succeed, guiding me, both through their wisdom and knowledge.”

In December 2018, Berghe earned second place in the Petrochemicals, Fuel and Energy category at the National Meeting for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The project included Berghe, fellow student Julie Brasili, and assistant professor Ramesh Singh, PhD, the research adviser.

"Gabriel is very involved in research and his contributions are significant," said  Dr. Singh. "We have already published a journal article in which, he is a co-author.

"In general, the students in the chemical engineering department have lots of potential. They are smart, confident and have a lot of knowledge. They can not only compete with students from other universities but can also win."

According to Berghe, the study was conducted by a research group that focused on investigating the molecular behavior of shale gas, water-based fracturing fluids and carbon dioxide within the nanopores that are present inside the shale reservoirs.

"We are interested in understanding the effect of carbon dioxide and water on the behavior of shale gas confined inside a calcite slit-like nanopore using molecular dynamics simulation techniques,” he said.

Computational techniques such as molecular dynamics allow the examination of molecular behavior of various species and make predictions about the structures and dynamical properties based on prior results we have gathered, he said.

“The study is relevant as the ongoing research in enhanced gas recovery (EGR) technologies requires an in-depth atomistic understanding of the hydrocarbons, water, carbon dioxide and other fracturing fluid constituents inside the nanopores of shale gas reservoirs,” he said. “We are considering carbon dioxide because it is an attractive displacing agent for enhanced gas recovery and has the potential to be an ‘exotic’ fracturing fluid. Water is considered, as it is the major component of water-based fracturing fluids."

He will present the poster at the Symposium for the Promotion of Academic and Creative Enquiry (SPACE) on campus, April 10.

Berghe, who is also president of the Chem Club, said Pitt-Johnstown has provided a valuable first step in a promising career. He is considering his options.

“I wish to continue my education to a master's and possibly a doctorate in chemical engineering,” he said. “I am equally passionate in both the energy industry and the pharmaceutical industry.”

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success.