James Selvage

James Selvage

I completed the MSc in Exploration Geophysics between 2007 and 2008. Since graduating I have worked for BG Group as a Geophysicist. First as part of the International Graduate Development Programme, then as a Processing Geophysicist in Geophysical Operations and now as an Exploration Geophysicist in East Africa Exploration Tanzania. I can't believe that it has been nearly 7.5 years since graduating!

I chose Leeds based on the recommendation of a recruiter and a geophysicist that worked at Total. In the third year of my undergraduate degree, I sent speculative letters to a number of oil and gas companies expressing my interest in joining the industry as a geophysicist. This resulted in a Human Resources recruiter at Total contacting me and saying "if you're serious about a career as a geophysicist then you need to obtain an MSc" and recommended the MSc in Exploration Geophysics at Leeds. I also got the opportunity to speak to a former student of the course, working at Total, who spoke highly of how well the course prepared you for entry into the industry. To hear recommendations like these reassured me that a career route existed after the MSc.

In particular, one module on the MSc has shaped my career, Time Series Analysis and Inversion Theory. It was a module that I found fascinating, but the concepts were difficult. I remember trying to explain my understanding of the concepts to the course lecturer, Professor Greg Houseman, and he smiled saying "you're getting it". I used the concepts with another Leeds alumnus, Jonathan Edgar, to create an improved way of performing Amplitude versus Angle analysis of seismic data. The technique, called Dynamic Intercept Gradient Inversion, is being used every day at BG Group to help interpret seismic data and it even won the CEO 2014 Edge Award for Innovation.

The course accepts students from a wide range of degree backgrounds. My undergraduate degree was more physics than geology so some of the geological concepts were a little strange. I still remember the module, Seismic Reflection Interpretation and Sequence Stratigraphy. For us physicists, it was strange seeing the geologists confidently making observations on the seismic (by drawing lines with their coloured pencils) and using this to support their interpretations. I remember one of the physicists pointing at a line and saying in exasperation, "Surely, you could have drawn that anywhere!". Quickly we realised that the different backgrounds could help one another and are complementary. I have to remind myself of this at work where the uncertainty in the data that we deal with means that many viewpoints are necessary to help make a decision, especially in my current role as an Exploration Geophysicist.

There's a certain bond among alumni of the MSc in Exploration Geophysics. Everyone remembers their introductory lecture by Dr Roger Clark where you are told that this is one of the most demanding MSc courses in the country. We all thought he was exaggerating, but how wrong we were! The course covers a broad range of concepts in considerable depth. It demands focus and a strong work ethic, but once you've completed it you will feel proud and be prepared for many different opportunities. Based on the opportunities that it initially opened up for me I would highly recommend the course.