Thursday, 21 July 2016

Back to (Petrophysics) School

Two weeks ago, on Sunday the 26th of June, the first ever summer school in Petrophysics hosted by the University of Leicester kicked off with drinks and a free out-of-hours tour of the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester City’s old town. A moderately-well documented event, you can find out more about the formalities on the web page, or you could read a more formal blog post on the Leicester University website. Here though, I am going to list some of my personal reflections: Looking back on the event from my perspective as an assistant. But as a summary; there are two non-work-related aspects that stand-out as highlights. 1) Meeting the colleagues of my colleagues and; 2) the opportunity to get a sense of the wider petrophysics community and the work that is going on. But let’s start at the beginning for context.

Paleontologist and guest lecturer Dr Tom Harvey
at the New Walk Museum
Striking the perfect balance of formal to informal; the ice was thoroughly broken at the aforementioned visitor centre meet-up, where awkward-silence-littered conversations slowly dissipated at roughly the same pace as the wine was consumed. Many participants had travelled thousands of miles to be at the summer school, and this diversity was reflected in a wide range of approaches, dress, and above all accents. Between the 30 participants, 19 different nationalities were represented; coming from 11 separate countries institutionally. It was a similar story with the summer school’s tutors as well, whereby of the 20 tutors/helpers, 12 separate institutions/organisations from 6 different countries were present.

Setting up a Geotek Core Logger for demonstrations
This atmosphere of like-mindedness though a passion for petrophysics lingered throughout the week as experts and professionals alike shared their experiences with participants through a series of lectures that built from the ground up. With various practicals spread throughout the week including operational demonstrations of equipment, fieldtrips and courses on the fundamentals of industry-standard software packages. But this is going off topic.

This week was the first time that I had met some of our professional partners in person, but I don’t think this was entirely a unique experience. The atmosphere suggested that this meet was the first time that so many had been in the same room for a while. Not really surprising though, given the large offshore expedition-focussed aspect of the job. There were many people that I had ‘met’ over skype or had ‘conversations’ with through email; and many more that I had heard of through reading their name on an expedition proceeding or scientific paper. However this week provided some time to get to know them as people rather than solely in the limelight of their professional career. A real privilege, especially given the calibre of character. But that’s all you’re getting on that subject, if you want to know more you’ll have to start studying to become a petrophysicist and get involved!

Clever scientists being clever
So, onto my second point. The petrophysics community. I think there is one thing that we can agree on about scientists – they’re clever people. So when you gather a bunch of them in a room and give them an opportunity to tell you what they are researching right now, the results can be pretty interesting. This is why throughout the first half of the week coffee breaks were combined with a series of poster sessions. To give people ample opportunity to bring and share.

Research areas were wide ranging. All the way from the realms of ‘classic’ petrophysics such as: the effect of particle size on fluid migration or the architecture of carbonate reefs; all the way to where interests were more than a little outside the box, such as using borehole imaging to re-orient core samples in order to investigate high-temperature deformation; or assessing the mechanical and chemical processes that occur when seawater interacts with rocks that have come from hundreds of kilometres underground (spoiler alert – this may give rise to primitive life forms that are not dependent on sunlight!). Full disclosure, some of these terms go straight over my head too – that’s why these guys usually stand next to their posters to explain… but I do recommend googling some of these terms, or getting involved yourself so you too can learn some science. It is a wonder to hear about the amazing things scientists in the petrophysics community can achieve, especially when using old data from the IODP legacy dataset.

So there’s my two cents on the petrophysics summer school. I wish I could tell you more about the content of the course but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend all the lectures thanks to “work” and all that. Maybe I will next time though.


No comments:

Post a Comment