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College of Science & Engineering


Geology Graduate Students Make Global Finals

A team of five geology graduate students from TCU (Fabian Pena, Carter Lewis, Tyler Zeiger, Sam Totz, and Noah Underwood) competed in the global finals of the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) Program competition after winning the regional competition in March.

Hunter Enis Endowed Chair Richard Denne, Ph.D., served as the team’s faculty advisor. “The IBA is an annual case competition where a team of geology students have eight weeks to analyze an actual industry dataset and present their findings. The competition provides the opportunity for students to work with industry data and software, interact with experts, and learn the process of finding oil and gas. Eight weeks is not a lot of time, so it forces them to work as a team, perform under pressure, and hopefully develop leadership skills,” Denne says.   

Each team delivers its results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts. Students have the chance to use state-of-the-art technology on a real dataset and win cash awards for their school. The judges select the winning team on the basis of the technical quality, clarity and originality of presentation. University teams draw international recognition that comes from competing or winning in the competition.

The program is rigorous and contributes to AAPG's mission of promoting petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students. Geology graduate student and participating team member, Sam Totz, says, “IBA taught me to work and collaborate in a small group to produce a presentation summarizing all of our nearly two months of work. Shortly after the competition ended, I started an internship where I gave a presentation very similar in style to what my team and I did in IBA. My IBA experience gave me the tools to work in the oil and gas industry in a way [that] not much else can.” 

This year’s competition included 544 participants from 87 universities around the world, from which the team from TCU reached the global finals of the competition along with eight other teams. Denne says, “This group had some early struggles but really came together as a team and prepared a technical presentation that really impressed the judges. This is my fifth year as the faculty advisor for the IBA teams at TCU, and this is the second team that has advanced to the global finals. I am proud of all of my teams, but I am especially proud of how hard this year’s team worked and how much they learned.”

Learn more about TCU’s Department of Geological Science and AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Program.