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BYU Geology Students Win International Geophysics Competition

Geology graduate students Scott Meek and Trevor Tuttle beat out 16 teams from 16 different countries to place first in the Society of Exploration Geophysics (SEG) International Student Challenge Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on October 17.

The SEG Challenge Bowl is a three-round competition in which teams of two students answer questions about geophysics, SEG history, and geology. After each round, half of the teams participating are eliminated from the competition.

“Geophysics is a branch within geology where they look more specifically at trying to image the inside of the earth . . . to try to get a better idea of the things we can’t go look at with our eyes or drill a hole to,” Meek said.

But neither Meek nor Tuttle are actually studying geophysics, which makes their victory even more impressive.

“Most teams consisted of geophysicists specifically,” Tuttle said. “We’re more sedimentologists, which is a branch within geology itself that deals more with the deposition of sediments.”

According to Meek, it was their experience in the BYU Department of Geological Sciences that enabled the two sedimentologists to compete against teams of geophysicists in a geophysics-focused competition.

“Honestly, the preparation was years of studying with our department. They’ve done an excellent job in giving us a really well rounded base [of knowledge] in the geological sciences,” Meek said.

Though they had an excellent educational background, Tuttle and Meek both experienced some anxiety as they entered the competition. In March, the team competed in an SEG regional challenge bowl that felt much different from the event in Dallas.

“When we did the regional competition, it was in this little room and we’re just sitting at a couple of tables with the screen in front of us,” Meek said. “We walked into this competition, and it was in this huge conference center with tiered rows of tables set up in front of a big audience.”

seg-challenge-bowl-competitorsThe size and professionalism of the event had increased.

“It felt like the real deal this time,” Tuttle said. “It was definitely intimidating.”

But their nerves quickly subsided as the competition began and the students established their adeptness in geological science. Meek and Tuttle easily moved past the first two rounds and managed to maintain their lead throughout the final round to defeat teams from Canada, University of Houston, and Venezuela. They won the competition and received $500 each in prize money.

“I think the team from Calgary was the favorite,” Tuttle said. “We were kind of the underdogs.”

Both Meek and Tuttle agree that their ability to take first as the underdogs can be attributed to their teamwork and education received from Brigham Young University.

“Scott’s really smart. He’s a really good geologist, and I’ve had a few more geophysical classes,” Tuttle said. “I mean, BYU is seriously a phenomenal program and a great school. We’re lucky to have great professors.”

This is the second team from BYU to win the SEG International Student Challenge Bowl; an earlier team placed first in 2011. It’s the only school to have won twice.

By James Collard Posted on