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UAF geoscience grad students top regionals, advance to finals

A team of University of Alaska Fairbanks geoscience graduate students won first place and $1,000 at a regional Imperial Barrel Awards competition recently and will advance to the international IBA competition on May 17 in Pittsburgh.

Five graduate students from the geology and geophysics department within the College of Natural Science and Mathematics make up UAF’s winning team: Olaniyi Ajadi, Casey Denny, Tyson Forbush, Rachel Frohman and Alec Rizzo. Associate professor Catherine Hanks is their advisor.

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists sponsors the competition, which draws geoscience graduate students from universities around the world. Teams can have up to five students, a faculty advisor and two industry professionals, who serve as consultants. The AAPG gives the teams a data set about a real place, including information on its geology and geophysics. Students have eight weeks to analyze the data and determine the gas and oil potential of the area before presenting their findings to a panel of industry judges at the regional competition.

UAF competed against four other universities from California to win first place in the regional competition. California State University-Long Beach came in second and San Diego State University came in third.

BP sponsored the UAF team by donating $3,000 to cover the team’s travel expenses to the regional competition in California. BP also provided two professional consultants for the team, BP geologists Sandy Phillips and Ashley Siks.

Anchorage based BP geologist Rebecca Bailey said competitions like the IBA program give students real-world experience and help prepare them for careers. Bailey works with the geology and geophysics department to find students who are interested and qualified for internships, scholarships and jobs.

She noted that Denny, who was a BP intern in the summer of 2012, will be joining BP full time in 2013 and that Forbush received a BP-UAF Scholarship in 2012. Bailey, who has been with BP since 2007, is a UAF alumna.

The geology and geophysics department entered the IBA competition for the first time last year and placed third at the regional competition.

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