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3D view

Earth Sciences alumni give students unique look beneath the sea floor

Student Life

By Kelly Foss

Students in an Earth Sciences class had a rare opportunity recently to use geophysical data to look beneath the sea floor.

A group of masked people sit around a laptop at a desk.
PanGeo Subsea employee Andrew Blagdon shows a student data collected by the company’s acoustic imaging technology.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

A group of visiting scientists from PanGeo Subsea led hands-on demos with the Seismic and Potential Field Methods in Geophysics (EASC 3170) class using data collected by the company’s unique acoustic imaging technology.

It provides a 3D image that allowed the students to look for buried anomalies, such as cables and unexploded ordinance.

Inside the Earth

Dr. Alison Malcolm has taught the course on and off since 2015.

“One of the key aspects of this course is that students get the chance to “see” what’s inside the Earth, instead of just what’s on the surface,” she said. “It’s great to have people from industry to come in and show us what they are doing, because we would never have the opportunity to collect this kind of data on our own. It is just too big an endeavour.”

The PanGeo team are also all alumni of the Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science.

Many of the employees also took EASC 3170 with Dr. Malcolm, including Joseph (Joey) Pittman (B.Sc.(Hons)’18; Andrew Blagdon (B.Sc.(Hons)’15, M.Sc.’21); Stephanie Abbott (BSc.(Hons.)’18, M.Sc.’21); and Michael Manning (B.Sc.’17).

“The work they do at PanGeo as geoscientists is directly related to the physics and earth sciences they did when they were here as students,” said Dr. Malcolm.

Simone Samson wears black glasses and a black jacket over a pale shirt while smiling at the camera.
Simone Samson
Photo: Submitted

Simone Samson is currently working towards a B.Sc. in earth sciences and is hoping to work in the oil and gas industry.

She says she loved learning about some of the opportunities available in geophysics.

“I thought it was fascinating they could find explosives buried in the sea or locate an archeological discovery, such as a Roman anchor, within centimetres,” said Ms. Samson. “The evolving techniques and technologies mean this field is forever growing and improving. I particularly enjoyed the hands-on demos, since it wasn’t just learning about new things but how to apply them in a real program with real data.”

She also says she feels the chance to network with alumni working in industry was beneficial to her and her fellow students.

“Employees of a business came to us with enthusiasm and showed us what they are all about and what they can do, or have been doing, in the field. I am very open to the idea of potentially having a career in this field now.”

‘Get to where I am now’

Michael King (B.Sc.(Hons.)’18) was a classmate of Mr. Pittman and Ms. Abbott.

He is currently completing a PhD at Memorial in geophysics and is doing a teaching internship with Dr. Malcolm in the course as part of Memorial’s Teaching Skills Enhancement Program.

When Mr. Pittman heard he was Dr. Malcolm’s teaching assistant for the course, he approached him about organizing a visit.

“I have done a number of similar presentations at the Marine Institute for the ocean mapping and ROV programs and thought it would be beneficial for the students to have a look at some of our data because it is so unique,” he said.

“When I took Alison’s class, she brought in a geoscientist from Chevron and he walked us through his day-to-day and gave us real data to look at. That was the lab exercise I think I learned the most from and it gave me a glimpse into what it would be like to be a geophysicist. That really helped me get to where I am now.”

A man in a face mask gestures as he stands in front of a presentation on a screen.
PanGeo Subsea employee Joseph Pittman gives an overview of the company’s activities.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

He says his company is always looking for fresh perspectives and new ideas and obtained several resumés from students, which he hopes will turn into interviews.

Mr. King says he was happy they were able to partner with the PanGEO team to organize the educational opportunity.

“As it turns out, I was also a student during this exercise,” he said. “I learned a lot about PanGeo’s operations and workflows. I also think it’s incredibly important for Memorial alumni to give back to their former departments and PanGeo has set an excellent example of how that can be done. I always emphasize to my students to be curious, ask questions and make observations. During PanGeo’s visit, the undergraduate students were very engaged and curious, which is great to see as a teaching intern.”


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