Students Rock Geology Competition

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BYU can add geophysics to the list of areas bringing the university international fame, thanks to two geology students who took an international competition by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists by storm.

Matthew Davis, a BYU master’s candidate studying geology, and Forrest Roberts, who is now a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, won first place in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists International Challenge Bowl in September. The win made them the first team from BYU to win the international competition and the first from BYU to qualify to participate in the Challenge Bowl.

The team was one of 10 that earned an all-expense paid trip to take part in the competition. Davis and Roberts qualified by winning a similar geophysics contest while attending a conference in Denver, which they entered with the rest of a geology class both were taking at BYU.

The competition, which awarded points to the team that buzzed in and correctly answered questions about physics, geology and general science, was broken into three rounds. BYU’s team got off to an early lead during the first round — a good thing, according to Davis, who said he didn’t want to disappoint the enthusiastic professor who had decorated their team’s table with BYU paraphernalia, and by the time the second round was over, Davis and Roberts had garnered more points than the other three remaining teams combined.

“We just slaughtered everybody,” Davis said. “It was terrible.”

In the final round, BYU went head to head with a team from Nigeria, and came out victorious with a margin of 210-140. The results were entirely unexpected, Davis said, and what made the victory even more unlikely was that BYU doesn’t have a specific program for geophysics. Nonetheless, he said it was his strong background in geology that likely gave his team the winning edge.

For winning the competition, Davis and Roberts received $1,000 in prize money and the opportunity to interview with recruiters from Exxon.

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