The people, science and technology behind discovery

Training Tomorrow's Geoscientists
Oklahoma State University School of Geology

The Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University excels in geological research whether students are interested in unconventional hydrocarbon plays or water quality issues of Oklahoma, incipient continental rifting in Africa, geomorphological changes in Antarctica, dolomitization of the Irish Midlands, extensional tectonics in Western Turkey, structural studies in Death Valley, biostratigraphy in Pakistan, Holocene seal level changes in the Gulf of Mexico, or geology of the Himalayas. They offer programs leading to Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Master of Science (M.S.) and Ph.D. degrees in Geology.  Oklahoma State University (OSU) offers special emphasis in petroleum geology, exploration geophysics, sedimentary geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, paleontology, and environmental geology. The Department presently includes 10 full-time tenure track faculty members, approximately 100 undergraduate students and 40 graduate students.

Professor Estella Atekwana teaches Potential Field Methods at Oklahoma State University

Professor Estella Atekwana teaches Potential Field Methods at Oklahoma State University

Geology is a discipline that involves interpreting the history of earth; discovering, recognizing and using natural resources to promote the quality of human life; and occupying the planet more safely through awareness of events that continue to shape its surface. The mission of the OSU School of Geology is to provide students with a broad perspective of the skills essential for discovery of geologic knowledge.

Educating the next generation of geophysicists now requires training students to be proficient in technologically advanced software tools. For Estella Atekwana, Ph.D, Professor and Sun Chair at Oklahoma State University's Boone Pickens School of Geology, the tool of choice is Geosoft's Education Program – a kit that enables her students to easily process, analyze and interpret magnetic and gravitational data.

"I've used a Geosoft Research License, since I first started teaching 18 years ago," says Atekwana. "Now with the Education Kit, we have 10 licenses, so that more students have access to the software. It's also very easy to use, which means that students can focus on the task at hand, rather than how to use the software."

Geosoft's Education License Kits are available in two configurations. For multidisciplinary geoscience teaching, the kit includes Oasis montaj™ plus extension for: Geophysics, Geochemistry, Magmap, Drill Hole Plotting and a GM-SYS Lab Kit. The Education Kit for GIS configuration includes 10 subsurface geology software licenses of Target for ArcGIS.

Professor Atekwana purchased the Kit a year ago, when Geosoft first introduced the teaching kit to the geoscience market. The software has become integral in supporting the curriculum of both her undergrad and graduate classes.

"My teaching style is to give students a strong theoretical background, and then a lot of hands-on experience," Atekwana says. "In the working world, theory is second to knowing how to process and interpret data."

Students of Atekwana's Potential Field Methods course use Oasis montaj in learning gravity and magnetic exploration methods. Homework assignments and projects include processing, modelling data, and then interpreting the data. Students also expected to make a PowerPoint presentation.

First, Atekwana has students write simple programs to calculate x, y, and z derivates or upward and downward continuation, so that they understand the process. Then, they use Oasis montaj to process larger data sets and to visualize the data through the software's enhanced graphics.

"Students gain experience processing vast data sets, which is a skill that they'll need as working geoscientists," Atekwana says. "The software also enables them to enhance certain features, such as shallow subsurface structures."

Demand is growing for geoscientists skilled in magnetic and gravity geophysical methods

Demand is growing for geoscientists skilled in magnetic and gravity geophysical methods

According to Atekwana, there is a strong demand in today's geoscience industry for geoscientists who are skilled in magnetic and gravity geophysical methods. Historically, geophysicists have been experts in seismic and electrical methods, for resource exploration projects and for locating contaminants in environmental investigations. With today's increased oil prices, the oil and gas sector is looking for expertise not only in the seismic methods but also in magnetic and gravity techniques which, when compared with seismic methods, are significantly cheaper (especially in the preliminary stages of exploration).

"With the recent hike in oil prices, there is a push for exploration and geoscientists that have experience in magnetic and gravitational geophysics," Atekwana says. "Exploration companies want to know where sedimentary basins are and the thickness of the sedimentary package. With Geosoft's software, you can process magnetic and gravity data follow up with seismic data and then verify seismic findings.

"My students are trained in these techniques and so, are highly in demand. In fact, two of my students landed jobs working with oil companies last summer."

For Atekwana, Geosoft's software is an important geophysical instrument that helps prepare students for their chosen profession as leading geoscientists, who deliver a higher level of accuracy in their interpretations. "We are trying to take physics and math and make sense of the geology," she says. "Geophysical tools help minimize uncertainty, so that we can make more accurate interpretations of the subsurface."