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Geology Students Dominate Quiz Competition

A team of BYU geology students took home top honors in a recent regional quiz competition, dominating a field comprised mostly of graduate students from some of the country’s top universities.

Matt Davis, a graduate student from Queen Creek, Ariz., and Forrest Roberts, a senior from Frannie, Wyo., placed first in the quiz bowl held at the 3D Seismic Symposium in Denver on March 28, ultimately defeating a team of Ph.D. students from the Colorado School of Mines in the final round. The competition — which features teams of two people answering questions about geology and geophysics — is hosted by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, or SEG.

By winning the western region, Davis and Roberts will receive all-expenses-paid trips to compete against other winning teams from around the world at the society’s annual meeting in San Antonio in September — a prospect the duo is positively giddy about.

“I’ve never been to San Antonio so I’m excited to experience a new place,” Davis said. “The SEG is a fantastic venue where geoscientists and geophysicists can network. … My main goal is to get everything out of the experience that I can and use it to further my future career opportunities.”

“I hear great things about the city,” Roberts added. “The opportunity to meet other students and professionals in geology is a great benefit to events like this.”

Though the Davis-Roberts tandem was the event’s big winner, two other BYU teams also took part in the competition: Stephen Phillips and Steven Herbst finished third overall, and Walt Harston and Cameron Griffin also participated.

Despite facing off against students with higher education levels, BYU’s students — mostly undergraduates — are regularly competitive in the upper echelons of this annual competition. BYU took third behind Stanford University and the University of Wyoming in the 2009 SEG quiz bowl and went to an “overtime” round before losing to eventual national champion Wyoming in 2010.

Davis said he believes BYU’s undergraduates excel because of the quality education afforded them by the Department of Geological Sciences.

“I believe the geology program [at BYU] is unrivaled to a great degree because of the unique geological setting that Utah offers,” he said. “People from around the world come to Utah to study the tremendous amount of geological history on display, and we enjoy it in our backyards. The emphasis that the geology department places on field studies provides students with the opportunity to leave the theories in their textbooks and experience many of the outcrops from which those theories were developed.”

Roberts concurred with his teammate, citing mentored research opportunities as a great chance for BYU undergraduates to gain experience.

“These opportunities are much more like graduate level work and really help to reinforce principles that are learned in the classroom,” he said.

Armed with knowledge gleaned from BYU’s unique research opportunities and distinguished faculty, Davis and Roberts are confident in their abilities and excited to represent their school at the national competition in September.

“Being able to represent BYU, and have people recognize BYU, is a great thing. I think our chances are pretty good,” Roberts said. “My main goal for the competition is to represent BYU well. It is an opportunity for people to become more familiar with the university — other than only Jimmer Fredette.”

By Steve Pierce Posted on