Oklahoma State University’s Professional Science Master’s in Geoscience program is on the way to graduating its first cohort next year.
The program, with the goal of creating “scientists to run tomorrow’s business,” was developed with input from professionals and partnerships with professional societies including AAPG and Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and targets working geoscience professionals.
“There is nothing like this to the best of my knowledge, but we need to give credit to our peer institutes for helping us develop the concept,” said program director and professor of geophysics Priyank Jaiswal.
“Our program is the most recent and draws inspiration from other programs that were in existence at that time. Fortunately, people were open to sharing ideas and we benefited from their experience. Thus, though the program is happening at OSU, it is in some sense a collective effort of colleagues and collaborators from all over the world,” he said.
A ‘Truly Symbiotic Relationship’
“The partnerships (with AAPG and SEG) allow faculty teaching for our program to build proprietary material such as the conference recordings into their class syllabus. The other benefit is using programs like EVOLVE as a capstone project for students who are looking for a collaborative experience,” Jaiswal added.
The PSM-Geoscience program courses, he explained, “provide a balanced combination of foundational and frontier knowledge … delivered by world-renowned domain experts. It helps them increase their membership and visibility. Most professionals who benefit directly from the societies often give back through matching programs of their companies. It is a truly symbiotic relationship.”
Jaiswal said AAPG’s Susan Nash, director of Innovation and Emerging Science and Technology, was helpful in developing portions of the program.
“With Susan, we discussed the biggest need of the AAPG members – the need for a course on business communication, and she graciously agreed to develop one for us using her existing resources. We will offer this course in the coming semesters and our students are looking forward to it.” he said.
The program currently includes three tracks:
- Petroleum Geology: Learn principles that guide generation, migration and accumulation of hydrocarbons in conventional and unconventional reservoirs through courses on Petrophysics, Well Logging, Risk Analysis, and more.
- Geophysics: Learn to acquire, process and interpret various kinds of geophysical data for resource characterization through courses in 3-D interpretation, rock physics, gravity modeling, AVO inversion and more.
- Hydrogeology: Learn how groundwater moves through and accumulates in various kinds of aquifers and how it transports reactive and non-reactive contaminants through courses on hydrodynamics, data analytics, geochemistry and more.
- A fourth track, on carbon storage, is in the making: “Learn about the science, art and regulations that guide the injection of super-critical CO2 in saline and depleted reservoirs through courses on social licensing, CO2-water-rock interaction, plume migration and more.
Flexibility and Availability
The hybrid format includes in-person and online sessions.
“The hybrid format is ideal for professionals in our observation. It gives them flexibility as well as networking opportunity. Going forward, I see more and more instructors adopting this format,” Jaiswal said.
Bill Fairhurst, president of Riverford Exploration, certified petroleum geologist and AAPG Member, teaches a course this semester in risk analysis and reserve assessment of conventional and unconventional reservoirs. He also lauded the hybrid format.
“The program is more flexible than a traditional school setting allowing in-person, live and recorded content, centered around the students’ availability and schedules,” he said. “OSU campuses in Stillwater, Tulsa and Oklahoma City provide additional flexibility for in-person meetings. There might be as few as a single all day in-person class with weekly live and recorded material to several in-person sessions, depending on students’ locations. This allows the students maximum flexibility to continue working while earning a master’s degree.”
“We will have four sessions in Stillwater, one in OKC and one in Tulsa, because that is where the students are located. We include guest lectures from known industry experts in specific specialty areas, weekly live Zoom meetings between in-person sessions, and applied upstream industry working exercises. The final exam is a team project, real-world case study, and professional presentation by the students allowing them to share their learnings from the semester, and flipping the classroom as the students will experience during their careers,” Fairhurst explained.
“I also hope to pull in at least two other world-leading experts in areas (geochemistry and prospect generation) to enhance the course and program as guest lectures,” he added.
Genesis of the Program
Jaiswal said OSU has been working to develop the program since 2017, but “like many endeavors, the master’s program was hampered by the pandemic.”
“We developed it following the best practices recommended by the National Professional Science Master’s Association. Before writing the proposal for a new degree, we interviewed over 100 professionals about their needs and wants in the oil patch (in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Dallas and Houston). Then, we took our findings back to our alumni board, who helped us further shape the idea. The administrator contributed by helping us make the proposal practical. The approval from the Board of Regents came seamlessly but, unfortunately, during the pandemic. Everything had to be put to a halt for the first 18 months. Finally, we admitted our first cohort in fall 2022,” he related.
“I am the founding director of the program and although I am in the driver’s seat, this could not have happened without the help of friends and colleagues. My colleagues Mohamed Abdel Salam and Camelia Knapp have worked relentlessly toward making sure the program jumps through the administrative hoops. Matt Hornbach from Southern Methodist University, the late Dale Sawyer from Rice and Manika Prasad from the Colorado School of Mines were instrumental in helping us shape the initial idea. We are very grateful to them. Our alumni contributed by giving us an industry perspective as and when we needed it. At OSU, we believe in teamwork,” Jaiswal added.
“With that education and credentials, that should provide additional contribution and career opportunities for the students that they otherwise would likely not have an opportunity to share and experience as their careers continues to progress,” Fairhurst said.