An in-kind donation of nearly $2.2 million by Petroleum Experts Limited, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based company, will help MTSU geosciences undergraduates become more adept at geomapping and, in turn, enhance their career prospects.
With the donation, Petex is granting access to the educational licenses of “Move Suite,” an industry-leading software, allowing current and future MTSU students to use its applications on campus.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee noted Petex’s $2.18 million donation during the Aug. 23 Fall Faculty Meeting that kicked off the new academic year.
“It’s software that will be used primarily by undergraduate students and a few graduate students,” said Dr. Mark Abolins, the MTSU geosciences professor who coordinated the agreement with Petex.
Abolins, who has been a geosciences faculty member for 20 years, emphasized the critical need for Petex’s Move Suite.
“There’s a huge amount going on with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in this department,” he explained. “This donation allows a few undergraduates to take the next step. This will help students understand the resources and the environment in the earth just beneath our feet.”
In the Midstate, ground water and caves are prevalent, Abolins continued, but natural gas, oil and ore are found beyond Rutherford County.
“There isn’t the interest in those things here because of the characteristics in the earth,” he added. “This package will really boost our capability to work with this third dimension, the earth just beneath our feet.”
Undergraduates historically haven’t used the software, which was primed for graduate students or for those working in the private sector after earning their degrees, the professor said.
College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer said the company’s donation “is an important gift that will help both our current students and our future students.”
“This gift will enhance the student experience by allowing students the opportunity to gain competence using an industry standard software, MOVE Structural Geology Modelling Software,” Fischer added. “I commend Mark in his efforts to pursue this venture with Petex for the geosciences department.”
MTSU student Braliegh Beshears, 20, a geosciences major from Ashland City, Tennessee, said geology “affects everyday life in a way most people don’t realize. It impacts building construction, roads, fresh-water sources, even oil and gas are by-products of geology.”
After graduation, Beshears said she would like “to work close to home, if at all possible. However, I have no objections to traveling, which is often necessary with geology.”
As part of the agreement, Petex specified the software “has to be used on campus,” Abolins said. “It is strictly for educational purposes.”
Eleven students who will soon begin to use Move Suite this semester are in an MT Engage course, Structural Geology. In that course, the students learn about bent and broken rock and what it means for resources and the environment.
Vanderbilt University and a few dozen other universities worldwide also use this software, Abolins said.
MTSU’s Department of Geosciences in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences features 155 undergraduate majors, 12 graduate students, nine full-time faculty and two lecturers. Dr. Henrique Momm is the interim chair of the program.
For more on Petex, visit www.petex.com.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)