SEG Student Education Program explains Why
Now in its sixth year, SEP closes the loop on academia and application
by Chris Posey
A diverse group of students from across the globe gathered on Friday, 20 September, for the first of three days of rigorous geophysical exercises, contemporary lectures, and group discussions, led by a smattering of the industry's lead geophysicists. Thirty students took part in this year's SEG Student Education Program (SEP), held 20-22 September at the Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas.
This year's SEP included students from 24 different universities, most of whom are currently in the process of completing masters or doctoral programs. The SEP welcomed those involved in geophysical disciplines as well as those studying geology, civil engineering, and earth and environmental sciences. Within the broad field of geophysics, students focused on a variety of specific disciplines such as rock physics, seismology, reflection tomography, and GPR.
Student backgrounds were as varied as their academic pursuits. Students travelled from universities as far away as Canada, Ghana, and Nigeria, and many student participants who currently call US universities their home have fared from countries as far away as Iran, and Sri Lanka. Fully one third of the participants were women, and barely half were from the United States. Many students were able to attend as a result of grants made available by SEG and ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil also provided the materials, real-world data, and monetary sponsorship that make the program possible.
The SEP is known for its rigor – it spans three days leading up to the SEG Annual Meeting, and it is replete with lectures, group exercises, Q&A sessions, and full-group discussions – but the rewards for the three days of engagement are significant. According to program founder Mike Loudin, the SEP provides "a big giant answer to the question, why?" A primary goal of the SEP is to transport students from pure theory and academia to practical application and manipulation of real data. "It closes a big loop," continued Loudin, speaking of the program's contextual exercises and emphasis on application. In addition to providing a unique opportunity to give legs to theory, Loudin sees great value in the symbiotic relationship that exists between the SEP and universities. Universities prepare leaders in an academic context, and the SEP prepares these same leaders to return to their respective universities with a broad view of the geosciences that couples application with theory.
This appreciation of practical application was echoed widely among SEP participants. Dominique Haneburg-Diggs, graduate student at Wright State University, felt that the value of the program rested in "getting to work hands-on with real data – not just watching a Power Point presentation." Geophysics doctoral student Megan Torpey, from the University of Florida, continued, "There is a lot of exposure to real data, not just academia" as a participant in the SEP. Torpey found unique value in the opportunity to "work with professionals who currently work in the geophysics industry."
The theme of the SEP is Multi-Disciplinary Subsurface Integration in Exploration and Production: From "Plates to Pores. Under this broad umbrella, students discussed, researched, argued, and defended specific topics including business processes of an integrated oil company, fundamentals of seismic theory, basin exploration and play concepts, and seismic acquisition. In addition to participation in lively exchanges about these and other topics, students also worked on an integrated mapping exercise and one exercise that spanned two days in which students conducted seismic acquisition design calculations.
"[SEP] exercises are more hands-on in an industry sense," commented Virginia Tech graduate student, Anna Hardy. Indeed, the SEP encourages growth beyond topical geophysics issues, as it also seeks to sharpen management and interpersonal skills in a geophysical context. Hardy also mentioned the acquisition of improved networking skills as a valuable take-away from the three-day event.
Organized by Callie Lee-Petricek and Elsa Velasco of SEG and led by ExxonMobil representatives Mike Loudin, Dan Feuerbach, Virginia Dunn, Isabel Varela, Brian Sabin, and Alana Robinson, the SEP enjoyed its sixth year of serving as a key element of SEG's University and Student Programs' ever-growing presence at the SEG Annual Meeting.