This article originally appeared in the September 2008 American Oil & Gas Reporter.

Read a PDF of the original article.

Programs target young geoscientists

by Dean Clark

SEG Foundation logo

1 October 2008–For decades, the world has relied–usually unknowingly–on geophysicists to see into the Earth through amazingly sophisticated instrumentation and computer wizardry to satisfy the demand for energy and elevate the lifestyle of the world.

Today, that requirement is intensified by much increased demand from evolving economies and there is a related challenge to adapt geophysical technology to address other major problems (such as ensuring reliable supplies of groundwater, monitoring the disposal of hazardous waste, mitigating the impact of natural disasters, etc.) that must be solved sooner rather than later.

SEG Foundation Corporate Donors

$1 million and higher
Chevron Corporation (Student Leadership Symposium)
ExxonMobil (Student Education Program)
Schlumberger (Geoscientists Without Borders)

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (scholarships)
Apache Corporation (scholarships)
CNPC (SEG online education)
TGS (field camps)

CGGVeritas (student membership dues)
Halliburton/Landmark (SEG online)
Ion (SEG online)
Paradigm (student membership dues)

Fairfield Industries (general unrestricted)
Geophysical Pursuit Inc. (SAGE)

The Society of Exploration Geophysicists, in partnership with the SEG Foundation, has responded to these challenges with a plan to accelerate the transfer of advanced geophysical knowledge around the world and to assure that the profession will attract the young scientific talent that will be taking leading roles in dealing with these problems in the near future.

This plan–one in which many major multinational corporations, respected business executives, world-famous scientists, and individual SEG members are actively involved–was inaugurated by a succession of visionary SEG leaders who saw the coming of “the great crew change” and realized the importance of making SEG programs available and affordable to students around the world.

The necessary first step was to dramatically increase the number of student members of SEG. Thanks in large part to underwriting by Halliburton initially and now by Paradigm and CGGVeritas, SEG’s student membership increased by an order of magnitude (from 750 to about 7000) in just over a decade. At the same time, the SEG Foundation dramatically increased its 50-year-old scholarship program. In the past year, SEG (thanks, in part, to a donation of US$875 000 from Anadarko Petroleum) awarded nearly $500 000 in scholarship funds to 176 students who are citizens of 55 countries and are studying in 36 different countries.

But what must SEG do to fully engage these new student members? The answer is both a rapid expansion of existing programs and the development of new programs. Individual SEG leaders have stepped forward with personal commitments to fund scholarships and summer field camps. Chevron has pledged $1 million over five years to establish the new SEG/Chevron Student Leadership Symposium, providing the opportunity for 50 outstanding student leaders from around the world to attend a workshop focused on leadership skill development. The symposium is held in conjunction with the SEG’s Annual Meeting so that the students can benefit from all this meeting has to offer and interact with the leading scientists and business leaders in the worldwide geophysics community.

Students learning in the field

ExxonMobil has also committed $1 million over five years for a new program: the SEG/ExxonMobil Student Education Program. This program will provide the opportunity for up to 120 students each year to apply their classroom knowledge while integrating geology, geophysics and engineering in a business environment. Up to four education events (each two days in length) will be offered annually in the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Russia.

As former SEG President Leon Thomsen stated: “SEG has for 77 years stood for professional excellence in the practice of applied geophysics in the search for natural resources. Increasingly, this excellence requires that geophysicists closely integrate with related disciplines, particularly geology and reservoir engineering. The new SEG/ExxonMobil Education Program will help introduce students from around the world to the need for subsurface integration and to the exciting challenges of careers in applied geophysics today.”

Another major way in which the SEG Foundation supports students is the annual Projects of Merit program, which funds projects aligned with the Foundation’s mission of encouraging and supporting scientific, educational, and charitable activities of benefit to geophysicists. More than 600 students will benefit from 16 of the 17 projects awarded in 2008. An additional project will benefit hundreds of students for years to come. Seven of the funded projects are in the United States and the other 10 are international projects representing eight countries. The projects reflect a variety of activities.

Projects of Merit Program

Project Title

AfricaArray Field School
SAGE 2008
CSM Field Camp
Enyigba Lead-Zinc Mineralization
Ground Penetration Radar Field Exp.
Field Camp Romania
Field Camp
Seismic Reflection Field Exercise
Collaboration with CSM Field Camp
Geophysical Education: Students for Students
SEG/AAPG Spring Break Student Expo
The Young Explorer
NERD Geophysics Software Camp
First Meeting of Students of Geophysics
Seminar Speaker
Renovation and Education Program
Student Quiz Contest


South Africa
Puerto Rico


University of Witwatersrand
San Diego State University
Colorado School of Mines
Ebonyi State University
Univ. of Puerto and Univ. of South Carolina
University of Bucharest
Istanbul Technical University
Kansas Geological Society/University of Kansas
Boise State University
University of Novosibirsk
University of Oklahoma
College of Biological & Physical Sciences
Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University
AGH - University of Science and Technology
Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Kingman Museum
SEG GAC Nigeria

In many ways, the success of the Projects of Merit program inspired a new program, Geoscientists Without Borders, which is designed to benefit disadvantaged communities by funding targeted applications of geophysical and geoscience technologies. These humanitarian projects will create a lasting legacy and a brighter future while raising the profile of applied geoscience. A coordinator for this program has now been added to SEG’s permanent staff and policies are being finalized by a committee of distinguished SEG leaders. Announcements of the first programs should be made in the coming year.

Dalton Boutte, executive vice president of Schlumberger and president of WesternGeco, expressed the goal of the program when announcing the $1 million founding commitment by his company. “When we looked at the technologies we have developed in the oil and gas sector and the potential benefits to humanitarian efforts, we were interested in enabling these applications through interaction with the academic community, students, and the SEG Foundation,” he stated. “We are proud to be able to help establish a program that will focus on humanitarian applications of geoscience and inspire students to use their skills in the geosciences to make the world a better place.”

One of the best ways a geoscience student can hone his experience is to participate in a summer field camp. These field experiences are designed to introduce students to hands-on geophysical exploration and research. Field camps emphasize teaching of field methods and research related to a variety of basic and applied problems. One way the Foundation and its donors support the geoscientists of tomorrow is by funding summer field camps like the Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE) and the Colorado School of Mines Field Camp.

Geoscientists Without Borders

Recently, the late O. Scott Petty, a founding member of SEG and of one of the world’s first geophysical contracting companies, was memorialized through the endowment of the O. Scott Petty Field Camp Grant. Thanks to a donation of $100 000 from the Scott Petty Foundation and matching funds of $50 000 from SEG, field camp experiences will be available to geoscience students in perpetuity.

Thanks to Richard Degner, president and chief executive officer of Global Geophysical, the Colorado School of Mines Field Camp has received additional endowment funding of $115 000. Degner personally donated $65 000 toward this worthy cause and SEG matched an additional $50 000. When asked why he supports the CSM Field Camp, Richard Degner said, “I grew up in the industry working on seismic field crews. In order to understand the technical, logistical and cost aspects of geophysical data, it is essential that young individuals entering the profession spend time learning the field methods.”

The SEG Foundation also joined forces with SAGE to kick off a $1 million endowment. The endowment will be managed by the Foundation and its sole purpose will be to fund SAGE on an annual basis. In June 2008, Geophysical Pursuit contributed $200 000 toward this goal and the SEG Foundation matched a portion of the contribution to bring the total investment to $300 000.

SAGE applies modern geophysical exploration techniques to specific field Earth problems (e.g., environmental, archaeological, hydrologic, geological structure, etc.) and uses computer modeling to interpret the collected data. Students work to integrate geophysical methods to solve real geological problems and address geoscience problems of research and practical interest. Typical field problems include locating buried hazardous material, mapping archaeological sites, and studying subsurface geoscience structure and water resources of the Rio Grande rift near Santa Fe, N.M.

At SEG’s 2007 Annual Meeting, then SEG President Leon Thomsen, launched the Foundation’s major gift campaign. With a theme of advancing geophysics today, inspiring geoscientists for tomorrow, Thomsen reported that the goal was $15 million. “Thanks to your generosity and support, we are more than half-way there. More than $9.7 million has already been raised from individual and corporate leaders,” Thomsen said. “We confidently expect to announce at the 2008 annual meeting in Las Vegas that this goal has been exceeded.”

Thomsen’s confidence appears justified. With weeks left before the 2008 annual meeting, the $15 million goal is within reach. The success of the campaign should not be measured in dollars alone, however. Scientific advancements are moving forward, partnerships have been forged, and lives have been changed. Perhaps nothing says it better than the words of those who have benefited directly from the campaign.

Tapesh Kumar Tyagi, SEG student section leader and a travel grant recipient, wrote in a letter: “SEG New Orleans Conference was an eye-opener for me. It was the first time I received such exposure [to the industry] in my life. It was the dream of my life. I met students from different universities from all around the world. I participated in the Student Challenge bowl and ended with third place.

“I met Bruno Blond from TOTAL during the conference in a student program organized by SEG. Before this conference, I had never heard about TOTAL. He told me about the career prospects as a geophysicist with TOTAL.

“At the end I just want to say one thing: SEG introduced me before the world. That exposure made a vision for my life. SEG transformed a village boy to an International Geophysicist. I am very thankful to the SEG for the support. I love SEG.”