It’s perhaps an understatement to describe the 10th annual AAPG/SEG student expo as a lively event.
Rockin’ might be a more apt term.
A record-setting number of more than 230 ambitious, fired-up university students from both the United States and overseas assembled at the confab, seeking a future in the oil and gas industry.
It was a golden opportunity to interact with the 34 companies on site – from the big guys to the not-so-big – who were aggressively looking for new recruits from among this assemblage of young, well-educated geoscientists.
In fact, the whole purpose of the annual expo is to link geoscience students with industry recruiters.
It’s a good deal for everyone.
The students have the opportunity to present their work, network and interview with multiple companies gathered in one locale, while the companies enjoy a cost-efficient method for recruiting from a varied and sizeable student population.
The annual event is a particular boon for students at schools far removed from the oil patch, which recruiters frequently by-pass.
In fact, the initial motivation for the expo was to help students at universities where they don’t get much industry exposure, and there’s light recruiting, according to Mike Mlynek, assistant manager of member services-student focus at AAPG.
Mlynek noted also that many of the student attendees know the history of this cyclic industry, but they still believe it to be a vital industry both for now and in the future.
Today’s Excellent Opportunities
Day one of the expo included field trips, an open poster session and an icebreaker. The following day was filled with interviews and poster presentations; poster awards were presented during an informal session.
The students submitted their resumes and poster abstracts prior to the meeting to allow the companies to identify attendees with specific skills.
The fact that numerous seasoned industry professionals are readying for retirement appears to have had a significant impact on recruiting parameters.
“A lot of the companies are looking for smart geoscientists – not necessarily geologists or geophysicists,” said Adam Seitchik, exploration supervisor at Devon Energy, an expo sponsor. “In general we’re looking for really smart energetic young students who are scientific, analytical thinkers.
“You can’t teach people to be smart,” he added, “but you can train those already smart to be good oil and gas finders.”
Seitchik commented on the good diversity of students outside of core oilfield schools, noting they’re all good strong candidates.
“What we’re seeing are more students that don’t necessarily have the soft rock or the structure background that companies used to look for,” he said. “They may not have that focus – but that’s OK as long as they have core geological course work.
“We’re seeing more geochemists, people maybe with more of an environmental focus that see the oil and gas industry as an excellent opportunity to use their geological skills.”
Not all of the student attendees were new to the industry.
In fact, Rutgers student Samuel Henderson is fourth generation Oil Patch – his family background is the natural gas side of the business in Ohio.
Henderson, who plans to complete his academic stint in July 2008 with a doctorate in paleo-oceanography, was new to the student expo series as of this year.
“I’m surprised at how many people are here,” he said. “There are so many it seems they’re (the companies) kind of swamped.
“Most of students here are graduate students,” Henderson noted, “and the undergraduates are being encouraged to seek higher degrees.”
Henderson’s initial expo experience was enhanced considerably when he captured third prize in the poster session.
Marine geologist/paleontologist Lindsey Geary was another expo first-timer. Geary is pursuing a master’s degree at Florida State University and currently is writing a thesis on “Holocene Diatoms From Maxwell Bay Antarctica.”
She gave the expo high ratings.
“Before the expo, I had sent applications to many companies,” Geary said. “Four of them elected to interview me here at the expo but I’d had no earlier response.
“It seems like if you go to meetings like this it shows the companies you’re really interested,” she added.
“I’ve had good response here and feel confident I’ll at least get an internship.”
A Pause That Refreshed
During the recruiting experience and elsewhere, it’s not uncommon to be asked what triggered a career decision.
Three-time expo attendee Fernando Enrique Ziegler, who is working toward a master’s degree in geophysics at the University of Houston, where he’s AAPG student chapter president, answers this question with a unique story.
After acquiring a bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Texas, Ziegler ventured to Houston to find employment. He quickly realized it would require a doctorate degree to get what he was seeking.
Meanwhile, he took a day-job tending bar in downtown Houston, where he met a number of geoscientists over time.
“Once I got to know them, they realized I had a degree in physics and said we need people like you in the oil business in geology and geophysics,” Ziegler said.
“They told me about the profession, and I thought it was very interesting.
“They pushed me to apply for graduate school and wrote letters of recommendation,” Ziegler added. “I got accepted at U of H (University of Houston), and now I’m here.”
The affable Ziegler, who already had interned with two of the companies at the expo, reported he had a couple of promising interviews during the event.
“The expo is great networking,” he noted.