The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in partnership with the UL Lafayet
For Grant Gibson, a passion for the science of “why” led to an impressive educational and professional career that brought him around the world many times over. However, Gibson was the first to remind us that it all began in Cajun country at UL Lafayette.
Gibson was raised in New Iberia, Louisiana and attributed his decision to enroll at UL Lafayette due to its proximity to the home he loved and the culture that framed his childhood. Knowing early on that he had an affinity for math and science, Gibson eventually settled on physics when declaring his major as an undergrad. When asked what led him to choose physics over other, more traditional STEM-centric degrees, Gibson’s explanation was two-fold. First, during that time, he knew of very few people who chose physics as a major and he found the subject’s unconventional nature appealing. Second, he knew that his passion could be found in the science of “why” as opposed to the science of “how.” This passion ultimately led him to pursue physics at what was then known as USL - a decision that would prove to influence his life in unexpected ways.
Gibson remembered a small, quirky community of physics faculty and students who shared the same thirst for knowledge and understanding of the world’s most pressing mysteries. He recalled fondly the dusty work rooms, outdated equipment, and professors whose passion for their field bordered on outlandish. He attributed much of his success later in life to ambition, with his ambition linked to the enthusiasm and dedication of several of his professors in the UL physics program.
“The professors took the time to invest in me and went out of their way to help me both academically and on a personal level. It made going to class and being part of the physics community really enjoyable.”
After earning his undergraduate degree in 1995, Gibson remained at UL Lafayette with the help of his professors to pursue a master’s degree in physics. He smiled when recalling his time teaching freshman-level physics courses as he worked toward his second degree. He was fully immersed in the UL experience at the time, attending football games each weekend and actively participating in Cajun culture and traditions. After Gibson earned his graduate degree, he decided soon after to take his education even further and pursued a Ph.D. After some gentle encouragement from his mother, and with the help of his support system in the UL physics department, Gibson left the state and culture that shaped his life to explore the unfamiliar. Gibson described his time working towards a doctorate in Corrosion Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), now known as the University of Manchester in the UK, as “exciting,” but frequently emphasized that even thousands of miles from home, Cajun culture impacted his experiences and relationships more than one might think. As a Ph.D. candidate, Gibson recalled cooking Cajun food every Friday night for the new friends he made while studying in Europe. Gibson completed his studies in Manchester in 1999.
After completing his Ph.D., Gibson relocated to Houston, Texas where he eventually founded his company, GATE Energy. He established the company in the year 2000 and since then, GATE Energy has grown to become a nationally recognized consulting and engineering firm, providing world-class engineering and project management services to the oil and gas industry. Gibson currently serves as the chairman and CEO of GATE Energy and as managing director of the company’s Singapore and South Korea operations.
Amid his growing success, Gibson found himself with an increasing desire to return to his roots, to give back to the place and department that gave him his start. In January 2016, Grant gave a non-endowed gift of $50,997 to the UL Lafayette Department of Physics to support the Grant Gibson Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory. The gift provided the means for a new, cutting edge laboratory that has since enhanced the overall educational and research preparation of UL Lafayette students, building a bridge between classroom and industry. A new curriculum in collaboration with the research lab introduced technical, hands-on experiments enabling students to link coursework and workforce demands.
More recently, in December of 2020, Gibson established the Dr. Grant Gibson Scholarly Travel & Research Endowed Fund in Physics. His gift totals more than $50,000 and aims to support professional development and skill building opportunities for students, such as field research, conference participation, and stipends for internships and travel. When asked why he chose to fund this particular area, Gibson explained that he hopes his gift will ultimately help students gain practical, hands-on experience that will prompt them to find success as they continue their careers. While Gibson knows that physics at UL Lafayette has grown beyond the small, quirky, seemingly under-funded department he remembers from when he was a student at USL, he hopes that his endowment will give students a competitive edge when moving on from their undergraduate studies.
“When I was a student, there wasn’t a lot of money for conferences or field research. I hope my gift helps students to have those opportunities. I want experiences like these to help launch their careers, too.”
Dr. Azmy Ackleh, Dean of the UL College of Sciences, said, “Alums like Grant, who recognize the value of investing in higher education, are the reason our College is able to match the incredible potential of our students. Their support is critical to our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest individuals who will undoubtedly go on to address many of the challenges our world faces today.”
Driven by feelings of love and nostalgia for his Cajun upbringing, Gibson fiercely believes in the importance of staying connected to his roots and, especially, in giving back to the community that fostered his passion for the science of “why.” When asked what he would say to anyone in a similar position, with the interest and ability to give, Gibson had a simple message.
“Giving back is always a positive thing. It’s about investing in your community; it’s a way for us to pay it forward. I like seeing that the department now has more resources available to it so that hopefully it can attract students who have the same fire inside that I did. I’m very proud to be from UL and it feels good to be able to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”
In discussing his life, achievements, and wide array of impressive endeavors, Grant Gibson emphasized one thing above the others. For Gibson, his roots are the building blocks upon which he framed the rest of his life. Because of this, he says, “I take the Cajun culture with me wherever I go.”
Photo Caption: Professional headshot taken of Grant Gibson.