GeoX Introduces the World of Geosciences to Student Scholars

Jun 16, 2016

This past week, the College of Geosciences hosted their annual GeoX conference, a six day conference for high school students who are interested in pursuing futures in the world of Geosciences. Through the school, faculty and staff were able to introduce the students to the subjects of Environmental Geosciences, Environmental Studies, Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST), Geography, Geology, Geophysics, and Meteorology.

Students from around the country were invited to apply for a program that has proven to be very selective. Students came from all parts of the country, as close as Houston, Texas to as far as New Jersey. Out of 174 applicants, 30 students were accepted into the program. Judy Nunez, director of the GeoX program, emphasized the benefit in keeping the program small allowing students to form relationships with other students and create a cohesive community for the six day program.

This program, which has a six year history, provided students numerous activities to help expand their knowledge of each subject. Some of the events in which they participated included searching for fossils in a river, helping launch a weather balloon, discovering the equipment used for deep sea exploration, and exploring the geosciences of Mars’ core and surface.

GeoX also provided the opportunity for students to discover what it takes to make it in certain fields of study. Numerous advisors and faculty volunteered to spend time with students to inform them of the admissions process and financial aid information.

On the third day, the students sat down for a presentation about the human effect on the aquatic environment. I was able to sit in and listen to Dr. Pamela Plotkin, an Associate Research Professor and Director of Texas Sea Grant, present about how she got involved in the world of sea turtles and their digestive intakes. Her presentation covered how she began her studies, and the abnormal discoveries she encountered when she started her research. For example, she shared with the students that 51.2% of the Loggerhead sea turtles she performed a necropsy on contained anthropogenic debris, or human trash, in their digestive system. Dr. Plotkin went on to tell the story about how one of her former students encountered a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose. This was a glaring example of the threat humans pose to the wild life around us, especially in the ocean. Dr. Plotkin’s final advice for students considering a future in Geosciences is to, “Just do it. Geosciences is a field in which they will always be employable; it is a field that will provide them with work that is meaningful and where there are endless opportunities.”

The program also placed emphasis on informing the students on their possible futures. The school accomplished this by bringing in leaders from different industries, along with faculty, to discuss possible career options when pursuing a future in Geosciences. One of the days during the program, the students were taken to BP (British Petroleum) where they witnessed from a first-hand perspective how a company focuses on Geosciences and its functions on a day to day basis.

Alex Ryan, an incoming high school sophomore from New Jersey, said he was able to learn a great deal from his trip to the BP office. The most interesting part he told me was how open the managers and workers were about how oil is not the best energy source for our world, and how we can concentrate our efforts on so many renewable resources rather than oil. Alex also discussed how he currently plans on pursuing his dream of becoming a meteorologist, while also serving our country in the military. When asked what he would tell students who are considering applying for GeoX, Alex replied, “Give it a shot and just do it. It is an amazing opportunity in which you are able to meet people from around the country, and learn so much about the realm of Geosciences and what it has to offer.”

GeoX not only informs the students on the opportunities in the world of Geosciences, the students are able to learn about the vast amount of opportunities provided at Texas A&M University. Judy Nunez emphasizes the importance of helping the students realize that. “Every school will have opportunities for their students; at Texas A&M, there are numerous opportunities available, especially to undergraduate students”, she adds.

What makes a program like GeoX so special is the emphasis that is placed on learning and the futures of the students. The staff who plans this event truly has the drive to show students the types of futures they can pursue. Judy’s favorite aspect of the program is being able to expose these students to the unending possibilities in the world of Geosciences. She states that,“Having the students realize the approachability and passion of the faculty and staff, and the excitement of the college students plays such a big role in helping the students realize there is so much potential for them here.” This program is completely funded through corporate sponsors, BP and Marathon Oil, and former TAMU student Eddie Gray. These students get to spend six days in College Station with the intent of learning something they are passionate about. While in high school, it can leave so many decisions a mystery; but, a program like GeoX can help students know and understand what kind of potential they hold.

written by: Craig Clements '17