Intern, Structural Geologist, Timothy Sherry @tsherryUSA: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME:  Timothy J Sherry

CURRENT TITLE:  Earth Science Intern, Geology & Geophysical Operations, Chevron

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Structural and Earthquake Geology

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  2

EDUCATION: Wrapping up MSc at McGill University

WEBSITE: http://upsection.blogspot.com

What’s your job like?

When most people hear the word “internship” they think of a college kid running around fetching cups of coffee for meetings, making photocopies, and organizing files. This is not the case. As an intern (this is true both for last summer and this summer), I was given a project that contributed to my teams. In other words, the projects matter, and the results are used by the team.

I’ve now worked two internships for two different sides of the company as a structural geologist. Last year I was on an exploration team, and my project had a large research component digging into the previous literature. On top of that I learned and gained experience interpreting seismic data. By the end of my internship, I’d worked out the tectonic history of an anomalous block of continental crust in the eastern Mediterranean and contributed to my team’s risk assessment of prospects in the area.

This year I’m on a team that provides geologic and geophysical help to the drillers, in the form of selecting the well location, and interpreting any subsurface hazards that might be encountered down-hole. My project was to create a subsurface drilling hazard assessment (SSDHA) for a prospect. I did little to no background research on the area, other than digging into the salt-tectonic literature for help interpreting structures. Most of my work was done on seismic interpreting software where I mapped surface-broaching faults, potential shallow gas and hardground hazards, and sutures in salt bodies. The results of my project will be used by the team to decide where to drill the well. Exciting!

What’s a typical day like?

The Geology and Geophysics Operations (G&G Ops) team typically gets into the office pretty early. No one told me that I have to be in at any specific time, though. The morning call with the rig goes on at 7:30 am, so I like to be at my desk before 7. I’m lucky enough that I’m in biking distance to downtown, and that Chevron has a gym and showers in house. When I get to my desk I check email and go over my calendar to see what meetings (if any) I have for the day. Once I know when the appointment times are, I can block off time to work on specific parts of the project. Sometimes I do this the previous afternoon, but meetings are often rescheduled, so I like to refresh on what the day is going to look like.

The company hosts numerous tech talks, reading seminars, intern networking events, and lunch & learns. The lunch & learns cover a wide range of topics. These are a great way to learn and ask questions about everything from employee benefits, working abroad as an expat, and different business units in the company. Plus there is a free lunch. I try to attend as many of these as possible. It’s a great way to meet other interns outside of my team and find people with common research interests to bounce ideas off of. This year I met two other interns who are also doing Masters projects researching injectites. We’ve been great resources for each other, learning about each other’s projects, sharing ideas and research papers, etc.

What’s fun?

Working with nice data is fun. My first thought when it came up on the screen was, “I can touch these rocks with my brain.” I really enjoy working with the scale of seismic surveys. So many relationships and structures are revealed! I really like solving problems and figuring out what is going on in the subsurface. There’s nothing like mapping in the field, but when the data is good, seismic is a lot of fun.

The culture at Chevron is very collaborative, open-feeling, and friendly. It’s fun to work there.

What’s challenging?

This year the biggest challenge was that my data was so good that I wanted to map everything. In G&G Ops there isn’t time for that. It’s not a “big picture” group. I had to figure out what was important, and then map only the important stuff.

What’s your advice to students?

Four things:

1. Ask a lot of questions. Before this year I had no idea what actually goes into drilling a well. People understood I was new to this and they were more than happy to walk me through concepts, practices, and define the infinite list of acronyms. If you have a question and the person you’re asking can’t answer it, they can point you to the person who can. Everyone is batting for the same team.

2. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion on something. Even as an intern, you’re still and expert in some field and your input is useful.

3. Introduce yourself. You’ll be seeing the same people everyday, even if they aren’t on your team. It’s always good to have an idea of who does what, if you ever need to seek their advice.

4. Practice presenting. Last year someone joked: “We’re working in industry because we hate writing papers.” Powerpoint is how information is recorded and shared. Learn to be confident presenting to your peers and supervisors.

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