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  • Writer's pictureAlastair MacLeod

Inspiring the Next Geoscience Generation

Nick Woodburn and Rachel Ward have been busy today, stepping away from their normal day job processing seismic data for energy and engineering industries, to inspire the current secondary school generation and encourage them to pursue a career in geoscience.

The students of Bedford Academy (ages ranged from 11-15) were treated to a hall full of wide-ranging companies including Anglian Water, a construction firm, the Army and various Chartered Accountants… with RockWave offering something different.

geoscience careers fair
RockWave all geared up to inspire children to pursue a career in geoscience.

How many of you were exposed to actual companies operating in the geoscience space before you even took your GCSE exams (or O-Levels for the older generations)? I certainly wasn’t. In fact, it was wasn’t until university that I even found out what geophysics was, let alone how it is relevant to industry.

Geology and geophysics are typically not an option for study in UK schools. There are some that offer it, but not nearly enough. When I’m asked by other parents at the school gates about what I do for a living, most will respond in surprise and interest to hear about an industry they never knew existed.

So, motivation number 1 for sending Nick and Rachel into a school careers fair was to promote a career in geoscience to school kids, who would most likely not discover where this could lead until it is too late e.g. when they bump into someone like me at the school gates in 20 years time!!

Motivation number 2 was a little more specific…

When it comes to hiring geophysicists for seismic processing and imaging roles, we've noticed something interesting: Out of every 10 applicants, only 2 are women.

You probably saw our Operations Director, Rachel Ward (read more about Rachel here), commenting about this on LinkedIn just as we launched our most recent hiring campaign, in an attempt to encourage more women to apply for the role. Since we always see a strong representation of male applicants, we felt it was important to flag the issue in the hope that more women would see the job advert and go for it.

inspiring women to pursue career in geoscience
Rachel Ward explaining why a career in geoscience rocks!

It is hard to know how far and wide Rachel’s voice was heard, but in the end, we did see a higher than average volume of applications from women. Great, but still not as many applications as we received from the men.

So, what gives?

We think that ultimately it stems from the number of girls in school who are choosing to study the subjects that could keep a career in geoscience, or specifically geophysics, as a serious possibility. From a personal point of view, I still recall my physics A-Level class of around 25 people, where only two were girls.

OK, so that’s why we attended Bedford Academy, but how did it go?


Kids were introduced to the concept of seismic, initially by linking it to something they might be more familiar with, ultrasound scans. They were asked about what they could infer from an image of an unborn baby at 12 weeks in terms of age and distances. Then asked about what equipment might have been used to acquire such an image and why do we even need to bother?!

Then we asked the same questions again, only this time they needed to apply their thinking to real world seismic data. We showed them images from one of our UHRS projects for an offshore wind farm and how that compares to a conventional seismic data for O&G exploration. Guess the age. Guess the distances between layers.

The answers we received were wide ranging, to say the least, but they had a go and hopefully got a slightly better appreciation for what lies beneath their feet.

There were soil and rock samples to get their hands on, one got so excited they even managed to spill a clay sample and get it all over the (borrowed) table cloth… sorry about that Bedford College!

First ever client call, to inform about the risky channel features they'd seen in the seismic data. Don't place your turbine there!!

Our final attempt (on this occasion) at maximising engagement and giving the kids something to remember from their first foray into geoscience, was an "ultra-professional" business call where they would deliver critical information about the seismic data that would save their client millions.

The rest of the RockWave team were standing by on MS Teams, whilst hard at work in their home offices, ready to take on the role of a stern-faced wind farm developer eager to hear news about where they should be placing their turbines. Throughout the day, each of us were called up by several brave young geoscientists.

Typically these conversations went as follows:

Kid: “hello there”

Developer: “hello”

Kid: “<snigger> you need to place your turbines in this area, because that’s nice and strong <snigger>, and we’ve seen channels in this red area and your turbine might fall in”!

Developer: “oh blimey! Thanks for letting me know, you’ve saved my bacon, glad we had that processed by RockWave 😉”

Sometimes the conversation strayed into more unusual territory….

Kid: “what time do you wake up?”

Kid: “what is your favourite day of the week?”

Kid: “I want to be a policeman”

I guess we can’t persuade everyone.

But we can damn well try.

And we will try again.

If you know a school that is running a careers fair, let us know. We’d love to go and fly a flag for geoscience once again!

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