Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Top 20 Doctoral Program — National Research Council


Dr. Michael Nikolaou
Dr. Michael Nikolaou

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Office Location: S228, Engineering Building 1
Phone: 713-743-4309   |   Fax: 713-743-4323
Email: nikolaou [at] uh [dot] edu
Nikolaou's research


Diploma National Technical University, Athens, Greece (1984)
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles (1989)

Courses (Intro Paragraph, if any): 

Courses Taught


  • Numerical Methods for Chemical Engineers
  • Plant Economics
  • Plant Design
  • Thermodynamics
  • Statistical Methods in Chemical Engineering (senior elective)
  • Statistical Quality Control Methods (senior elective)
  • Seminar (written and oral presentations for chemical engineers)
  • Process Control
  • Introduction to Computing
  • Introductory lecture on Energy


  • Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering
  • Advanced Process Control
  • Natural Gas Monetization
Teaching philosophy

It is rather well accepted, that the teaching of chemical engineering is at a stage of evolution, due to two factors:

  • Recent advances and broadening of chemical engineering science and technology.
  • Developments in teaching technology, in part owed to new capabilities of electronic media.

Academia needs to constantly assess, and possibly improve, what and how to teach. Improvements may be realized in two ways: Step changes, e.g. new courses, and gradual modification of existing courses.

What and how to teach

The scope of academic teaching is clear: Teach the fundamentals, so that students can later learn on their own as well. From that point of view, current chemical engineering curricula have well known strengths, such as breadth and flexibility. However, industrial relevance is of paramount importance for consolidating the fundamentals. My activities related to teaching include the following:

  • Communication with the Dept.’s industrial advisory council. Responding to their suggestion, I developed the statistical process control (SPC) part (50%) of a new undergraduate course. I also developed an undergraduate course on Statistical Methods in Chemical Engineering.
  • Interaction with students and colleagues. Within the Chemical Engineering Dept., I chair curriculum committees that biannually critique the content of each course (rather than the instructor), for consistency, continuity, and continual improvement.
  • Incorporation of widespread recent chemical engineering discoveries in undergraduate courses, and consolidation of research results into graduate courses (e.g., graduate course on Advanced Control, new computing methodologies and software tools).
  • Incorporation of practical experience (e.g., consulting) in course material.
  • Use of modern instructional media (e.g., interactive presentation of PC graphics during lecturing).
  • Participation in engineering education seminars and conferences (e.g. ASEE Annual Meeting).
  • Study of relevant literature on the teaching of engineering.
Undergraduate research

Our group has advised over a dozen undergraduate students, a number of whom have continued with graduate studies.

Research Interests: 

Hard to define yet easy to recognize, intelligence as a feature in the operation of engineered systems is highly desirable and increasingly possible. Whether one deals with a chemical plant, an offshore oil-production platform, a food-processing facility, a microchip making factory, or a medicated human patient, intelligent operation of a system offers distinct advantages, ranging from high return on investment to improved quality, reliability, and safety. Computer software and hardware (from a simple chip to a full computer) and their interaction with humans are at the heart of intelligent operations. The ubiquitous concept of feedback is the basic underlying principle. While the computer is the “brains”, all elements of a feedback loop (including sensors, actuators, and transmission / communication lines) are important and have experienced unprecedented advancement in recent years. In this context, our research aims at the development of

  • new fundamental methods for the solution of broad classes of intelligent operations problems, and
  • solutions for specific problems of real-world importance.

There are several tools of quantitative analysis employed by our group, including system modeling and identification, optimization, statistics, and feedback control. In addition, domain expertise in the various fields where we conduct our research is of paramount importance. As a consequence, our work has a strong interdisciplinary flavor and often builds on collaboration with investigators from other fields. Solutions proposed by our work are tested using computer simulations, laboratory experiments, or industrial-site tests. Examples of on-going research areas include the following:

  • Oil and gas production systems: What hardware and software technologies can be used in the field to safely maximize return-on-investment?
  • Semiconductor manufacturing tools and processes: How can equipment be designed and operated that ensures consistent production of high-quality microchips?
  • Effective development and use of antibiotics: How can new antibiotics and clinical practices be designed that maximize the killing effect of antibiotics on pathogenic bacteria while minimizing toxicity for human patients?

Our collaboration with field practitioners is an essential element in our quest for fundamental solutions to problems or relevance to the real world. Many of our students conduct part of their research at industrial collaborator sites—both in the Houston area and elsewhere—a practice that offers many clear benefits to all parties involved. Over 15 Ph.D. students graduating from our group have landed successful careers in diverse industrial areas, such as oil and gas, refining, chemicals, semiconductor, engineering design, and food processing, as well as in academia.

Selected Publications

  1. Bhagunde, P.; Singh, R.; Ledesma, K. R.; Chang, K. T.; Nikolaou, M.; Tam, V. H.,

    Modelling biphasic killing of fluoroquinolones: guiding optimal dosing regimen design. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2011, 66 (5), 1079-1086

    , 2011
  2. Breyholtz, O.; Nygaard, G.; Nikolaou, M.,

    Managed-Pressure Drilling: Using Model Predictive Control To Improve Pressure Control During Dual-Gradient Drilling. Spe Drilling & Completion 2011, 26 (2), 182-197.

    , 2011
  3. Darby, M. L.; Nikolaou, M.; Jones, J.; Nicholson, D.,

    RTO: An overview and assessment of current practice. Journal of Process Control 2011, 21 (6), 874-884.

    , 2011
  4. Economides, M. J.; Nikolaou, M.,

    Technologies for Oil and Gas Production: Present and Future. Aiche Journal 2011, 57 (8), 1974-1982.

    , 2011
  5. Guo, B. N.; Abdelraouf, K.; Ledesma, K. R.; Chang, K. T.; Nikolaou, M.; Tam, V. H.,

    Quantitative Impact of Neutrophils on Bacterial Clearance in a Murine Pneumonia Model. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2011, 55 (10), 4601-4605.

    , 2011
  6. Tam, V. H.; Nikolaou, M.,

    A Novel Approach to Pharmacodynamic Assessment of Antimicrobial Agents: New Insights to Dosing Regimen Design. Plos Computational Biology 2011, 7 (1).

    , 2011

Journal Papers / Refereed Journal Publications

  1. Darby ML, Nikolaou M.,

    “Identification test design for multivariable model-based control: An industrial perspective”. Control Engineering Practice 22 (0):165-180. doi:

    , 2014
  2. Singh, A., and M. Nikolaou,

    “Debottlenecking level control for tanks in series”, Journal of Process Control (in press)

    , 2014
  3. Bhattacharya, S., and M. Nikolaou,

    “Analysis of Production History for Unconventional Gas Reservoirs With Statistical Methods”, SPE Journal, 18(5): 878-896

    , 2013
  4. Carlsen, L.A., G. Nygaard, and M. Nikolaou,

    “Evaluation of Control Methods for Drilling Operations with Unexpected Gas Influx”, Journal of Process Control, 23(3): 306-316

    , 2013
  5. Nikolaou, M.,

    “Computer-Aided Process Engineering in Oil and Gas production”, Computers and Chemical Engineering, special issue on CPC VIII, 51(0), 96-101

    , 2013
  6. Singh, A. and M. Nikolaou,

    "Optimal rules for central bank interest rate subject to zero lower bound", Economics (provisionally accepted)

    , 2013
  7. Singh, A., and M. Nikolaou,

    “Control of a process with unmeasured disturbances that change its steady-state gain sign”, Journal of Process Control, 23(3): 294-305

    , 2013
  8. Bhattacharya, S., and M. Nikolaou,

    "Unified Fracture Design for Unconventional Reservoirs”, Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, 9, 184-195

    , 2012
  9. Breyholtz, Ø. and M. Nikolaou,

    "Drilling Automation: Presenting a Framework for Automated Operations." SPE Drilling & Completion, 27(1): 118-126

    , 2012
  10. Darby, M.L. and Nikolaou, M.,

    "MPC: Current practice and challenges”. Control Engineering Practice, 20(4): 328-342

    , 2012
  11. Guo, B., Abdelraouf, K., Ledesma, K., Nikolaou, M., Tam, V.,

    “Predicting bacterial fitness cost associated with drug resistance”, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 67(4): 928-932

    , 2012
  12. Bhagunde, P., R. Singh, K. R. Ledesma, K. T. Chang, M. Nikolaou and V. H. Tam,

    “Modelling biphasic killing of fluoroquinolones: guiding optimal dosing regimen design,” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy66(5): 1079-1086

    , 2011
  13. Breyholtz, O., G. Nygaard and M. Nikolaou,

    “Managed-Pressure Drilling: Using Model Predictive Control To Improve Pressure Control During Dual-Gradient Drilling,” SPE Drilling & Completion26(2): 182-197

    , 2011
  14. Darby, M. L., M. Nikolaou, J. Jones and D. Nicholson,

    “RTO: An overview and assessment of current practice,” Journal of Process Control21(6): 874-884

    , 2011
  15. Diomede, P., M. Nikolaou and D. J. Economou,

    “Voltage waveform to achieve a desired ion energy distribution on a substrate in contact with plasma,” Plasma Sources Science & Technology20(4)

    , 2011
  16. Economides, M. J. and M. Nikolaou,

    “Technologies for Oil and Gas Production: Present and Future,” AIChE Journal57(8): 1974-1982. (Exceprted in Chemical Engineering Progress, 8:12)

    , 2011
  17. Guo, B. N., K. Abdelraouf, K. R. Ledesma, K. T. Chang, M. Nikolaou and V. H. Tam,

    “Quantitative Impact of Neutrophils on Bacterial Clearance in a Murine Pneumonia Model,”Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy55(10): 4601-4605

    , 2011
  18. Guo, B., Abdelraouf, K., Ledesma, K., Nikolaou, M., Tam, V.,

    “Predicting bacterial fitness cost associated with drug resistance,” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, accepted

    , 2011
  19. Tam, V. H. and M. Nikolaou,

    “A Novel Approach to Pharmacodynamic Assessment of Antimicrobial Agents: New Insights to Dosing Regimen Design,” PLoS Computational Biology7(1). (Featured Article;  Reviewed at Priority Paper Evaluation by J. Mouton, Future Microbiol., 6(6), 613–616)

    , 2011
  20. Bhagunde, P., K. T. Chang, R. Singh, V. Singh, K. W. Garey, M. Nikolaou and V. H. Tam,

    “Mathematical Modeling To Characterize the Inoculum Effect,” Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy54(11): 4739-4743

    , 2010
  21. Gravdal, J. E., M. Nikolaou, O. Breyholtz and L. A. Carlsen,

    “Improved Kick Management During MPD by Real-Time Pore-Pressure Estimation,” SPE Drilling & Completion,25(4): 577-584

    , 2010
  22. Darby, M. L. and M. Nikolaou,

    “Multivariable system identification for integral controllability,” Automatica, Vol. 45 (10): 2194-2204

    , 2009
  23. W. J. Foster, N. Dowla, S. Y. Joshi, M. Nikolaou,

    “The fluid mechanics of scleral buckling surgery for the repair of retinal detachment,” Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol, DOI 10.1007/s00417-009-1198-z

    , 2009
  24. Lim, T. P.; Ledesma, K. R.; Chang, K. T.; Hou, J. G.; Kwa, A. L.; Nikolaou, M.; Quinn, J. P.; Prince, R. A.; Tam, V. H.,

    “Quantitative assessment of combination antimicrobial therapy against multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii,” Antimicrobial Agents And Chemotherapy52 (8), 2898-2904

    , 2008
  25. Tam, V. H.; Ledesma, K. R.; Vo, G.; Kabbara, S.; Lim, T. P.; Nikolaou, M.,

    “Pharmacodynamic Modeling of Aminoglycosides against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii: Identifying Dosing Regimens To Suppress Resistance Development,” Antimicrobial Agents And Chemotherapy52 (11), 3987-3993

    , 2008
  26. Darby, M. L., and M. Nikolaou,

    “A Parametric Programming Approach to Moving Horizon State Estimation,” Automatica43 (5): 885-891

    , 2007
  27. Nikolaou M, Schilling AN, Vo G, et al.,

    “Modeling of microbial population responses to time-periodic concentrations of antimicrobial agents,” Annals of Biomedical Engineering,35 (8): 1458-1470

    , 2007
  28. Tam, V. H.; Schilling, A. N.; Poole, K.; Nikolaou, M.,

    “Mathematical modelling response of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to meropenem,” Journal Of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy60 (6), 1302-1309

    , 2007
  29. Tam, V. H.; Vo, G.; Kabbara, S.; Nikolaou, M.,

    “Pharmacodynamics of gentamicin against Pseudomonas aeruginosa: modelling bacterial response to drug-selective pressures,”International Journal Of Antimicrobial Agents29, S87-S88

    , 2007
  30. L. Saputelli, M. Nikolaou b, and M.J. Economides,

    “Real-Time Reservoir Management: A Multi-Scale Adaptive Optimization and Control Approach,” J. Computational Geosciences, invited publication for Special Issue on Closed-Loop Reservoir Management, 10, 61-96

    , 2006
  31. M. Nikolaou and V. H. Tam,

    “A new modeling approach to the effect of antimicrobial agents on heterogeneous microbial populations,” Journal of Mathematical Biology, vol. 52, pp. 154-182

    , 2006
  32. Nikolaou, M.,

    “Control of Snack Food Manufacturing Systems: Potato chips and micro-chips are more similar than commonly believed,” IEEE Control Systems Magazine, special issue on process control, 26 (4): 40-54

    , 2006
  33. L. Saputelli, M. Nikolaou, and M. J. Economides,

    “Self-learning reservoir management,” SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering, vol. 8, pp. 534-547

    , 2005
  34. M. Nikolaou, P. Misra, V. H. Tam, and A. D. Bailey,

    “Complexity in semiconductor manufacturing, activity of antimicrobial agents, and drilling of hydrocarbon wells: Common themes and case studies,” Computers & Chemical Engineering, vol. 29, pp. 2266-2289

    , 2005
  35. V. H. Tam and M. Nikolaou,

    “Mathematical modelling of resistance emergence,” Journal Of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, vol. 56, pp. 983-983

    , 2005
  36. V. H. Tam, A. N. Schilling, and M. Nikolaou,

    “Modelling time-kill studies to discern the pharmacodynamics of meropenem,” Journal Of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, vol. 55, pp. 699-706

    , 2005
  37. Misra P, Nikolaou M.,

    “Input design for model order determination in subspace identification,” AICHE J49 (8): 2124-2132

    , 2003
  38. Nikolaou M, Misra P.,

    “Linear control of nonlinear processes: recent developments and future directions,” Comput. Chem. Eng.27 (8-9): 1043-1059

    , 2003
  39. Eker, S. A., and M. Nikolaou,

    “Linear Control of Nonlinear Systems - The Interplay between Nonlinearity and Feedback,” AIChE J.48 (9): 1957-1980

    , 2002
  40. Shouche, M., H. Genceli, and M. Nikolaou,

    “Dependence of Model Predictive Control and Identification Performance on On-Line Optimization Techniques,” Computers Chem. Engng.26, 9, 1241-1252

    , 2002
  41. Zhang, H., Y. Peng, M. Nikolaou,

    “Development of a Data Driven Dynamic Model for a Plasma Etching Reactor,” J. Vac. Sci. Tech. B20 (3): 891-901

    , 2002


  1. Nikolaou, M.,

    "Compressed Natural Gas" in Advanced Natural Gas Engineering, X. Wang and M. J. Economides, Gulf Publishing

    , 2009
  2. Nikolaou, M.,

    “Combating microbial resistance to antimicrobial agents through dosing regimen optimization,” Optimization in Medicine and Biology, G. Lim (Editor), Taylor & Francis

    , 2007
  3. Nikolaou, M.,

    “Model Predictive Controllers: A Critical Synthesis of Theory and Industrial Needs,” Advances in Chemical Engineering Series, Academic Press

    , 2001

Conference Proceedings Publications

  1. Bassett, J., J. Watters, K. Combs, and M. Nikolaou,

    "Lowering Drilling Cost, Improving Operational Safety, and Reducing Environmental Impact through Zonal Isolation Improvements for Horizontal Wells Drilled in the Marcellus Shale", SPE 168847-MS

    , 2013
  2. Nikolaou, M., X. Wang, and M. J. Economides,

    "Optimisation of Compressed Natural Gas Marine Transportation with Composite-Material Containers", SPE 165898-MS, APOGCE

    , 2013
  3. Saputelli L., Bravo C., Nikolaou M., Lopez C., Cramer R., Mochizuki T., Moricca G.,

    “Best practices and lessons learned after 10 years of digital oilfield (DOF) implementations”, SPE 167269

    , 2013
  4. Bravo, C. E., L. A. Saputelli, F. I. Rivas, A. G. Perez, M. Nikolaou, G. Zangl, N. d. Guzman, S. D. Mohaghegh and G. Nunez,

    “State-of-the-Art Application of Artificial Intelligence and Trends in the E&P Industry: A Technology Survey”. SPE-150314-MS, SPE Intelligent Energy International. Utrecht, The Netherlands

    , 2012
  5. Nikolaou, M.,

    “Computer-Aided Process Engineering in Oil and Gas production”, Invited presentation at CPC VIII, Savannah, GA

    , 2012
  6. Bhattacharya, S. and M. Nikolaou,

    Using Data From Existing Wells To Plan New Wells in Unconventional Gas Field Development. SPE-147658-MS, Canadian Unconventional Resources Conference. Alberta

    , 2011
  7. Bhattacharya, S. and M. Nikolaou,

    Optimal Fracture Spacing And Stimulation Design For Horizontal Wells In Unconventional Gas Reservoirs. SPE-147622-MS, SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Denver, Colorado

    , 2011
  8. Moridis, G. J., H. Kuzma-Anderson, M. T. Reagan, T. A. Blasingame, R. Santos, K. Boyle, C. M. Freeman, D. Ilk, Y. W. Wang, S. C. Pullman, S. Bhattacharya and M. Nikolaou,

    “SeTES: A Self-Teaching Expert System for the Analysis, Design, and Prediction of Gas Production From Unconventional Gas Resources”. SPE-149485-MS, Canadian Unconventional Resources Conference. Alberta

    , 2011
  9. Ø. Breyholtz, G. Nygaard, and M. Nikolaou,

    "Automatic Control of Managed Pressure Drilling", invited talk, American Control Conference

    , 2010
  10. Ø. Breyholtz, G. Nygaard, H. Siahaan, M. Nikolaou,

    "Managed Pressure Drilling: A Multi-Level Control Approach", paper SPE 128151, Intelligent Energy, Amsterdam

    , 2010
  11. Darby, M. and M. Nikolaou,

    "Multivariable System Identification for Integral Controllability – Computational Issues", ADCHEM 2009, Instanbul, Turkey

    , 2009
  12. Darby, M., M. Harmse, B. Froisy, and M. Nikolaou,

    "Model Predictive Control:  Current Practice and Challenges", PLENARY talk, ADCHEM 2009, Instanbul, Turkey

    , 2009
  13. J. E. Gravdal, M. Nikolaou, Ø. Breyholtz, and L. A. Carlsen,

    "Improved Kick Management During MPD by Real-Time Pore-Pressure Estimation", paper SPE 124054-MS, SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans

    , 2009
  14. M. Nikolaou, M. J. Economides, X. Wang, and M. Marongiu-Porcu,

    "Distributed Compressed Natural Gas Sea Transport" paper OTC-19738-MS, Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, TX

    , 2009
  15. Ø. Breyholtz, G. Nygaard, and M. Nikolaou,

    "Advanced Automatic Control for Dual-Gradient Drilling", paper SPE 124631, SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans

    , 2009
  16. A. Awasthi, S. Sankaran, M. Nikolaou, L. Saputelli, & G. Mijares,

    “Short-Term Production Optimization by Automated Adaptive Modeling and Control,” SPE 112239-MS

    , 2008
  17. A. Awasthi, S. Sankaran, M. Nikolaou, L. Saputelli, and G. Mijares,

    “Meeting the Challenges of Real-Time Production Optimization: A Parametric Model-Based Approach,” SPE 111853-MS

    , 2008
  18. L. A. Carlsen, G. Nygaard, J. E. Gravdal, M. Nikolaou, J. Schubert,

    “Performing the Dynamic Shut-In Procedure Because of a Kick Incident When Using Automatic Coordinated Control of Pump Rates and Choke-Valve Opening,” SPE 113693-MS

    , 2008
  19. A. Awasthi, S. Sankaran, M. Nikolaou, L. Saputelli and G. Mijares,

    “Closing the Gap Between Reservoir Modeling and Production Optimization,” SPE 107463-MS

    , 2007
  20. Darby, M. and M. Nikolaou,

    “RTO: An Overview and Assessment of Current Practice”, SICOP/ADCHEM 2006, Gramado, Brazil

    , 2006
  21. M. Nikolaou, A.S. Cullick and L. Saputelli,

    “Production Optimization—A Moving-Horizon Approach,” SPE 99358-MS

    , 2006
  22. M. Nikolaou, A.S. Cullick, L. Saputelli, G. Mijares, and S. Sankaran, L. Reis,

    “A Consistent Approach Toward Reservoir Simulation at Different Time Scales,” SPE 99451-MS

    , 2006
  23. Nikolaou, M., and V. H. Tam,

    “Modeling the effect of antibiotics on bacterial populations of distributed resistance:  A system approach”  FOSBE 2005, Santa Barbara, CA

    , 2005
  24. L. Saputelli, M. Economides, M. Nikolaou, V. Kelessidis,

    “Real-time Decision-making for Value Creation while Drilling,” SPE 85314-MS

    , 2003
  25. L. Saputelli, M. Nikolaou, M.J. Economides,

    “Self-Learning Reservoir Management,” SPE 84064-MS

    , 2003
  26. L. Saputelli, H. Malki, J. Canelon, M. Nikolaou,

    “A Critical Overview of Artificial Neural Network Applications in the Context of Continuous Oil Field Optimization,” SPE 77703-MS

    , 2002
  27. Nikolaou, M., and A. D. Bailey, III,

    “Application of reduced-rank multivariate methods to the monitoring of spatial uniformity of wafer etching,” MASM

    , 2002
  28. Sathish Sankaran, Wolfgang Deeg, Michael Nikolaou, Michael J. Economides,

    “Measurements and Inverse Modeling for Far-Field State of Stress Esimation,” SPE 71647-MS

    , 2001
  29. Luigi Saputelli, Bilu Cherian, Karolos Gregoriadis, Michael Nikolaou, Cedric Oudinot, Gopal Reddy, Michael J. Economides, Christine Ehlig-Economides,

    “Integration of Computer-Aided High-Intensity Design with Reservoir Exploitation of Remote and Offshore Locations,” SPE 64621-MS

    , 2000
  30. Sankaran, S., M. Nikolaou, and M. J. Economides,

    “Fracture Geometry and Vertical Migration in Multilayered Formations from Inclined Wells,” paper SPE 63177, SPE Annual Meeting, Dallas

    , 2000
  31. Zhang, H., and M. Nikolaou,

    “Control of Spatial Uniformity in Microelectronics Manufacturing: An Integrated Approach,” APC/AEC XII Sematech Workshop, Lake Tahoe

    , 2000



    Date: 01/01/2013
  2. Gerardo Mijares; Alejandro Garcia; Sathish Sankaran; Jose Rodriguez; Luigi Saputelli; Ankur Awasthi; and Michael Nikolaou, SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR OPTIMIZATION OF REAL TIME PRODUCTION OPERATIONS, 20090157590
    Date: 05/01/2009
  3. Economides, Michael J.; Deeg, Wolfgang F. J.; Valko, Peter; Nikolaou, Michael; andSankaran, Sathish, Method for stress and stability related measurements in boreholes, U.S. Patent 6,834,233, 2004