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The Eberly College Magazine, Winter 2007

The Eberly College Magazine, Winter 2007

FromAcademicsIndustrytoHow Software Grants ArePreparing Grads for Successby Sarah BraswellAs any recent college graduate can attest, the real world is notmuch like college. There are no exams, no spring breaks, andcertainly no extra credit. However, one Eberly College professor isworking hard to prepare his graduate students for the transitionfrom academics to industry.Dr. Tom Wilson advises graduate geology students in theCollege’s Department of Geology and Geography. An industrygeophysicist turned professor, Wilson has been a member of theDepartment for 24 years. One of the primary ways that he ispreparing his graduate students for work in the energy industry isby training students to use software that they might encounter inthe field.Through his contacts in the industry, Wilson procured twomajor software grants from industry giants Schlumberger andLandmark. Both of the software programs will help students andfaculty to analyze subsurface environments for the purpose of oilrecovery and carbon sequestration, the practice of storing carbondioxide underground in order to reduce the amount of CO 2 in theatmosphere.“It is essential that we understand the nature of subsurfaceenvironments to ensure that we can reliably and safely sequesterCO 2 for long time periods. These software resources—as weexplore and develop their potential—will help us prepare ourstudents to take on non-traditional but critical roles in ourcountry’s and the world’s energy future,” Wilson said.Dr. Alan Brown, a WVU geology alumnus and Schlumbergeremployee, helped to secure the $180,000 donation for the programfrom Schlumberger Information Solutions, a world leader ingeophysical and subsurface technology development.The software will be used initially as part of an academic/government research/industry collaborative study to evaluate therole fractures play in oil production from the Teapot Dome field inWyoming. This joint study originated in continuing collaborationwith the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantownand is continuing through a grant from the Petroleum ResearchFund of the American Chemical Society. The study will help in thedesign and implementation of long-term enhanced oil recoveryand carbon sequestration efforts at the Teapot Dome field.The Petrel software donated by Schlumberger is a powerfulpackage of geophysical and subsurface investigation tools. It workswith a Windows operating system and, unlike other software tools,is fully integrated into a single software platform. Because of itsversatility, Wilson believes that the software will be beneficial tomany students and faculty within the Department of Geology andGeography.“I can’t overemphasize what a relief it is to see these kinds ofadvances in the integration of various software tools. Petrel bringsthe analytical efforts of the geophysicist, geologist, well log analyst,and petroleum engineer together on a single software platform,”Wilson said.Landmark Graphics of Houston, Texas, a leading supplier ofsoftware for the oil and gas industry and a brand of Halliburton’sDigital and Consulting Solutions division, also provided thedepartment with state-of-the-art software valued at more than $8million. Landmark’s software solutions contribute significantly tothe potential for sophisticated energy research and education andwill help attract top-notch applicants for future faculty positionsand high quality graduate students in the energy field, Wilsonsaid.Wilson has also incorporated several of Landmark’s softwaretools into a computer-aided subsurface interpretation class that hedeveloped for the graduate and upper division undergraduatecurriculum. The software has helped students to learn conceptsand skills that are essential to the visualization of subsurfaceproblems associated with a variety of applications in fossil fuelsand mineral exploration.Wilson’s graduate students have seen first-hand the benefit ofthe software as well as the advantages of the assistance and trainingthat Wilson has provided. “I’ve been very fortunate to have thefunding and oversight that Dr. Wilson provides,” said ValerieSmith, a student who is pursuing her Master’s degree in geology.“The graduate experience here is more intense. I’ve had fundingfrom the get-go and have been able to do research from thebeginning.”Smith also held a summer internship at Schlumberger’sheadquarters in Houston, Texas, where she had the opportunity topractice using the software. She also traveled to Casper, Wyoming,to visit the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center.“This program is perfect training for whatever you want to getinto,” said Jamie Tallman, another of Wilson’s graduate studentswhose research focuses on coalbed carbon sequestration. “It’sexactly the way working in a business is. We have to work a certainamount of hours per week, turn in status reports and updates. It’salready like going to work.”Through his commitment to the practical application ofacademic study, Wilson has truly helped to equip the graduates ofthe Geology program with the skills they need to become leadersin the energy and environmental sectors. With Wilson’s help,students like Smith and Tallman will be ready to step into theworld with confidence that they can succeed— without any extracredit.Arts & Sciences | 10 | Fall 2007

Leaving Jet Planeon aby Christopher RichardsonThe transition from undergraduatestudies or the workplace to graduateschool is a tough one for anystudent. New places, new faces, adeeper and more challengingintellectual endeavor – and thematter of a dramatic life change –can be daunting for any student.Those who are West Virginians orwho hail from surrounding statessuch as Pennsylvania, Maryland, andOhio have the option of headinghome for the occasional weekend,academic responsibilities permitting.They can hop a ride up or down I-79or across I-68, have a couple ofhome-cooked meals and a goodnight’s sleep, and return refreshedand ready to get back to work.But what about the internationalstudents? There are no simple curesfor their bouts of homesickness andadjustment. It is far more difficult,expensive, and time-consuming totake a plane to the UK, Far East,Middle East, or any other part of theglobe that is represented in theEberly College’s graduate studentpopulation.Of course the distance factor is justone of many things that studentsfrom other parts of the world weighwhen making their decision toattend West Virginia University.Many are excited to see a new partof the world, just as Americanstudents are when they enroll instudy abroad programs that sendthem to places such as Hong Kong orItaly.Francesca Zanoni, a second-yeargraduate student in the EberlyCollege, decided to come to the U.S.because of an exchange programbetween her school in Italy andWVU.“There is an exchange programbetween my Italian university(Trento) and WVU,” she explains.“Moreover, WVU was looking forItalian teachers.”Teaching a foreignlanguage is one of many ways thatinternational students can adjust tolife in the States. By teaching a classin their first language (be it Chinese,Italian, French, Spanish, German,Japanese, or Russian), the studentshave the opportunity to introducenot only the language but also tointroduce their native culture. AFrench class, for example, mightexplore traditional French cuisine, ora Japanese class might learn to eatsushi. Not only are students learninga new language, but they are alsogaining a greater understanding ofthe context and elements of a newculture.Likewise, the instructor is learning anew culture. As a result, they arelearning just as much from thestudents as the students are learningfrom them, which makes theclassroom experience beneficial foreveryone involved.Needless to say, there are plenty ofdifferences in how classes arestructured in Morgantown comparedto what international students areaccustomed to in their homecountries.“The methods are very different,”Zanoni admits. “In Italy it’s justlectures. Students study the notesand the books. The exams are oralinterviews in my department in Italy.There are not many written exams.We don’t have to write papers or dopresentations, but we have about 20exams every year, so the system ispretty different.”Although they are far from home,international students are enjoying aonce-in-a-lifetime experience, andmaking the most of their time atWest Virginia University.Arts & Sciences | 11 | Fall 2007

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