May 12, 2015, Cairo – The American University in Cairo (AUC) introduces new specialization in the petrochemicals industry as part of the Department of Chemistry's academic program offerings. The new specialization, which will be offered in Fall 2015, will create a leading center for petrochemical education, training and research that will serve the needs of the growing petroleum and petrochemical industry, as well as corporations operating in the Gulf area and the Middle East region, explained Tarek Madkour, chemistry professor and founder and coordinator of the new specialization. “The new specialization in the petrochemicals industry is one-of-a-kind in the whole North Africa, Gulf region and the Middle East,” he said.Madkour explains that all chemistry departments at the school of sciences in the universities in the region have one basic chemistry department that graduates general non-specialized chemists. “Due to the flexibility in the American pedagogy and AUC’s vision for encouraging interdisciplinary programs, the chemistry department had the vision of creating the new specialization to address the needs of the expanding petrochemical industry in the Middle East and North Africa of newly specialized well-trained chemists. While fresh graduates of the chemistry departments in the region spend at least two years on the job training, our graduates, due to the new program design, will have a jump start once they join the industry which makes our program one of a kind,” he said.
To ensure a strong, collaborative relationship between AUC and the oil sector in Egypt, the School of Sciences and Engineering has signed a memorandum of understanding with Oil and Gas Skills (OGS) corporation, the leading arm of the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum. The agreement calls for internship and training opportunities for AUC petrochemical majors and strong collaboration on joint projects for the skills development of the petroleum sector’s technologists. In addition, there have been several meetings with representatives of the major oil corporations in Egypt with a view to establishing partnerships with the University.
The rapidly expanding petrochemicals industry, he added, is shifting its focus to a new generation of petrochemicals and their products. "The worldwide demand for new petrochemicals from natural biorenewable resources is on the rise due to the depletion of oil resources,” Madkour noted.
He also pointed out that petrochemical company executives have expressed interest in a new generation of chemists with the knowledge, skills and vision to create new processing routes and innovative product lines of the future. "AUC students are already excited about creating new products from petrochemicals, including space-age polymers, biofuels, environmentally friendly packaging materials, specialized coatings and adhesives, nanocomposite membranes for water desalination and waste water treatment," Madkhour said.
Madkour said that this new specialization provides great opportunities for fresh graduates to become the future leaders in the petrochemicals industry, as well as conduct critical research relevant to Egypt’s 2022 Master Plan. Established by the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (eCHEM), the plan focuses on expanding the internationally competitive industry over the next 20 years to more than $22 billion in investments. Development of this growing sector will create more than 100,000 new jobs for the country and will lessen the country's dependence on imports and generate larger export sales.