Excellence in Geophysical Education Award of AGU

SAGE Faculty Receive Excellence in Geophysical Education Award

Excerpt from Eos, v 80, Jan 26 1999, pp 40-41

    "The second AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Award was presented to the faculty of the Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE): Scott Baldridge, Shawn Biehler, Larry Braile, John Ferguson, Bernard Gilpin, and George Jiracek. The persistence and commitment of this group has provided the geophysical community with a superb educational program for over 16 years, reaching nearly 400 students, including undergraduates, graduates, and professionals. The award was presented at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on December 8, 1998, in San Francisco, California.


    "SAGE participants spend 3 to 4 weeks acquiring, processing, and analyzing geophysical data, using seismic reflection and refraction, gravity, magnetic, very low frequency, transient electromagnetics, ground penetrating radar, resistivity, and magnetotelluric methods. Located in the Rio Grande rift, the research program has addressed questions about the structure and development of rift boundaries. Results have been published on a regular basis. In recent years the program has incorporated environmental investigations and intermediate-scale hydrological projects. The high-quality data are of immediate value to Los Alamos and state agencies. This is good politics, but more importantly, provides students with experience in socially important applications of geophysics.

    "The typical experience for a SAGE participant is a mix of classroom instruction, field trips, hands-on field work, data processing, and synthesis. Classroom discussions cover local geology, results of previous research, geophysical methods, and modeling software. Each year investigations cover slightl,. different geographic areas or revisit a question with new techniques. This keeps the work interesting for all involved. With their individual strengths and specialties, the faculty demonstrate the myriad of ways to address geological problems and simply help teach students how to think. The faculty's e: pertise and enthusiasm sustain the high leve of student research.

    "Students spend approximately 8 days collecting field data and prepare both an oral and written report. Expectations are speiled out clearly at the outset. In the evenings students work in the computer lab on their projects and on developing an integrated geological interpretation of the data. The tone in the labs is a marvelous mix of curiosity and communal dedication to "getting things done," fueled by ongoing student-to-student and faculty-to-student teaching. Teamwork is emphasized. The summer session closes with oral presentations and a good sense of what has been accomplished. Following the summer SAGE experience, un. dergraduates sponsored by The National Sci. ence Foundation-Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) return for follow-up workshops in January, with the possibility of continuing work at their home institutions.

    "SAGE has been ahead of its time in exposing students to potential career opportunities. To this end, representatives from industry attend SAGE, make technical presentations, work with students in the field, an talk with them about what kind of jobs are available.

    "A broad mix of backgrounds and experience enlivens the program. Participants' home institutions range from small liberal arts colleges to top-notch research universities. Students attending SAGE in 1993 and ' 1994, for example, came from 39 U.S. campuses and 11 countries. Over the last 5 to 10 years, 40-50% of participants have been women, and several Hispanic, African American, and Native-American students have attended SAGE.

    "The smooth flow of classroom and field work stems from months of faculty effort. On top of their regular active research programs, faculty participate in the month-long summer program and two planning workshops. Codirectors George Jiracek and Scott Baldridge make contacts with industrial affiliates and submit annual reports to the Society for Exploration Geophysicists Education Committee. In the fall and spring, logistics and permitting are set, the web site is updated, and approximately 1000 information packets are distributed. Contact with students continues year-round. Science remains at the forefront, and research results are published regularly.

    "What is the impact of SAGE on the geophysics community? SAGE offers an intensive field and research experience that is simply not available at any individual institution, large or small. The value of the SAGE experi. ence is documented in its broad base of fina cial support and in the track record of participants. Of the 14 undergraduates who attended SAGE 1993, for example, 11 are in graduate school and two work for geoscience companies. Moreover, the word has gotten out. SAGE can now only accept abou 50% of qualified applicants.

    "Perhaps the most amazing aspect of SAGE is that it has been organized and sustained for over 16 years without any permanent fun› ing. Paul Coleman and Charles ("Chick") Keller contributed greatly to founding and sustaining the program. The faculty have developed a "partnership" between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and industry. This partnership has allowed SAGE to obtain funding from DOE programmatic funds, the NSF-REU program, Los Alamos National Labc ratory (the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics), as well as donations from aboul 20 companies (Industrial Affiliates). The mini mal student fees make the program accessible to the broadest possible range of applicants. That support comes from such a variety of sources attests to the recognition and appreciation of this effort by the geophysics community. The SAGE faculty are clearly deserving recipients of AGU's Excellence in Geophysical Education Award." --Sarah Kruse, University of South Florida, USA


    "The Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE) faculty thanks the American Geophysical Union for bestowing this wonderful honor on us. We are especially grateful to Sarah Kruse for nominating SAGE for the award. Sarah was a participant at SAGE in 1992 and because she's a professor who cares about educating young people in the Earth sciences, we greatly value her opinion.

    "SAGE is a blend of field-based research and education using modern geophysical techniques to study significant geologic problems. SAGE was conceived from a vision that something special would come from pooling the resources and talents of several universities, a federal laboratory, and industry. Much more than a summer geophysics field camp, it was to be an immersion in geophysics: a true experience. This led Shawn Biehler and Bob Riecker to choose the name SAGE, not only to emphasize experience but also to suggest that the program might distinguish itself in a "sage" or a wise way. SAGE also refers to the native plant of the high desert of northern New Mexico where SAGE has flourished. This bold landscape must share part of the tribute, for it is this land with its demanding tectonic challenges that has captured our interests for 16 years.

    "SAGE is a partnership that includes 19 Industrial Affiliates representing major oil companies, equipment manufacturers, computer businesses, and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). One person who has stood steadfast with us from the beginning and deserves special recognition is Matt Mikulich, Chevron Corporation's Chief Geophysicist. Matt has chronicled the oil industry for the students over the years. Hans Rasmussen from Kennecott Exploration and Norm Carlson from Zonge Engineering have done the same for mineral exploration, and Louise Pellerin, most recently with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has reviewed environmental geophysics. Other special thanks go to Jamie Robertson, Sandy Raechle, and Robert Withers of ARCO and Andy Mills of Zephyr Geophysical for providing vibroseis and magnetotelluric crews. We also thank Tom Boyd from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) for his tireless efforts to supply the CSM vibroseis system. We could not exist without financial support from the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California, National Science Foundation, and industry. Recent SEG Presidents Jamie Robertson, Fred Hilterman, Rutt Bridges, and Bill Barkhouse have maintained an SEG commitment. The NSF supports 15 students each year through their Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Paul Coleman and Chick Keller, heads of the Los Alamos Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP), have been our strongest advocates through many financial crises. The IGPP staff have cheerfully handled endless details. The SAGE faculty also thanks our home institutions for letting us engage in an unorthodox experiment that often required stretching the bounds.

    "However, the real stars and the true legacy of the SAGE program are the nearly 400 graduate and undergraduate students who have attended SAGE since its inception in 1983. It is extremely satisfying to have these former SAGE students tell us how much SAGE meant to their careers. A favorite written comment from an undergraduate was, "You've Fourier transformed my life. " --The Sage Faculty: W. Scott Baldridge (Co-director), Los Alamos National Laboratory, N. Mex., USA; Shawn Biehler, University of California at Riverside, USA; Lawrence W. Braile, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind, USA; John F. Ferguson, University of Texas at Dallas, USA; Bernard E. Gilpin, Golden West College, Huntington Beach, Calif., USA; and George R. Jiracek (Co-Director), San Diego State University, Calif., USA.