Since 2006 the IDEA League universities have been offering a joint master’s programme. The Joint Master’s in Applied Geophysics is a two-year joint degree programme offered by three of Europe’s leading science and technology institutions: Delft University of Technology, ETH Zurich and RWTH Aachen University.
Veerle Steenhuisen, class of 2016, wrote a blog about her experiences as an Applied Geophysics student.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of the IDEA League nor of its affiliated programmes.
The Delft semester
After finishing my BSc. Applied Earth Science at the Delft University of Technology and spending one year as a member of the student council of the DUT, I started the Joint MSc. Programme Applied Geophysics in September 2014. The first semester of this programme was situated in Delft, at the same university as where I had already done my BSc. programme. Therefore this was quite a relaxed beginning for me, since I already knew the surroundings and culture at the DUT and many of my friends were living there. Of course, one thing that was new, was the group of students joining the programme, well at least most of them. We have a really diverse group, in background as well as in nationality and because of this many interesting discussions (and dinner parties!) have passed the past year. Furthermore there are always students willing and able to help others. So after one year spending together with them, I can say that it is an amazing group of people and I am very happy to be their classmate.
Back to studying. As I said, I already knew the DUT. However, most of the professors in this master programme I had never had the pleasure of attending lectures from before. In the first period of the Delft semester, I chose the following courses: Methods of Exploration Geophysics, Matlab, Electromagnetic Exploration Methods, Petroleum Geology and Advanced Reflection Seismology. As the names suggest, most of these courses were quite theoretical and later on proved to be a good basis for the rest of the year. Especially the course Advanced Reflection Seismology I found very good, but in general I think all courses added to my knowledge from the bachelor and were taught on an appropriate level. The courses in Delft were mostly focused on the oil and gas industry and most of them I took together with the Petroleum Engineering and Reservoir Geology students. But additional courses that focused more on Geo-engineering or Remote Sensing could also be followed, as well as many others.
I think that the possibility of choosing electives and the abundance of interesting courses to choose from is a really valuable thing in this programme. In this way everyone gets the chance to find out what they like best and to share their knowledge afterwards with the rest of the group. In the second quarter of the semester in Delft I chose the following courses: Exploration Geology, Geophysics Special Subjects (a follow-up course of the Advanced Reflection Seismology course), Sedimentary Systems and Geological Interpretation of Seismic Data. In contrast to the courses in the first quarter, these courses were more practical, bringing many exercises and interesting discussions with them. For Geophysics Special Subjects for example, apart from the lectures, one had to read a scientific paper and present and explain this topic to the other students. I think this was one of the best courses I have taken in Delft, since you didn’t just understand the subject very well afterwards, but you also had to find a way to make it understandable to others. Lastly, the course Exploration Geology I enjoyed very much, because the professor had a very interactive way of teaching, which always resulted in interesting discussions.
The Zurich semester
Then, a more exciting semester started for me: Zurich. Although I had already spent half a year abroad in Lisbon during my bachelor programme and this time everything would be much better organised, I couldn’t help feeling a bit excited about this new move. I couldn’t have wished for a nicer stay in Switzerland however. The country is beautiful, the people kind and helpful, the cheese almost as good as in the Netherlands and everything is so well organised! Apart from this, our group of geophysics students grew much closer in Switzerland, since there was only one person from this area, so everyone only knew each other. Immediately in the beginning of my arrival, we rented a house near the ski resort Flumserberg to enjoy the fresh snow and relax after the exams in Delft. Of course, a lot of paperwork had to be done in these first weeks as well, one of the drawbacks of having such a well organised country I guess. But, thanks to the long spring break, this could be done in a relaxed pace, together with exploring Zurich and its beautiful surroundings. Together with 7 other classmates I moved into the brand new student complex near the Katzensee in Affoltern. Even though the place is half an hour bike-ride away from the university and the city, it was a very comfortable place to live in.
The study period at ETH started quite intense with a lot of courses, namely: Inverse Theory I, Numerical Modelling I, Reflection Seismology Processing, Fieldwork Methods, Case Studies I and Seismology of the Spherical Earth. The way the courses were given was very different from Delft, since in Zurich all courses consisted of many mandatory reports and intermediate tests. Even though this resulted in some stressful weeks, we had to work together in groups much more, which I found nice. Apart from that I think the practical aspect of the courses in Zurich complemented very well to the theory we learned in Delft. Furthermore, the focus of the courses in Zurich was more on the environmental geophysics and geo-engineering. We visited a nuclear waste site near Basel for example for the course Case Studies I. After the Easter break, some of the courses ended and only a few new ones started. Therefore I had some more time to look around and practice my favourite hobby: climbing. Together with a Swiss friend who also climbs, I went to Ibergeregg and Eppenberg several times to enjoy the solid rock and beautiful views. But apart from nature, there are also a lot of cultural things to do in the area. So Basel, Luzern, Konstanz, the Zurich opera and many museums, like the Tinguely museum in Basel, were discovered. A different country brings another language and since I have always enjoyed learning languages, I continued studying (Swiss)German. But not in the usual way however. For three months I participated in the course Deutsch sprechen im Realen Kontext, a ’course’ in which we went to a home for elderly and spoke (Swiss)German with the people living there. This was a great way to improve my German and I enjoyed it very much.
In June all courses had finished and the Geophysical Fieldwork started. During the first two weeks we went to two different fieldwork sites (a landslide site and an archaeological site) and used different geophysical techniques to get an idea of how the subsurface looked like. Afterwards we then had to process and interpret all the acquired data and write a report about this. I think this was a great way to end the first year with, since you could really bring everything you learned before into practice (and see that in reality it sometimes goes much different than you thought it would go). Summer break In the very long summer break I did a.o. a wonderful internship at Wintershall where I modeled the amplitude and AVO response of clastic reservoirs. This was a very valuable experience and I would recommend all the upcoming geophysics students to do an internship in their summer break.
The Aachen semester
Then, finally in half October, the Aachen semester started. Aachen itself is a very pretty little town very close to the Dutch border. Our group of geophysics students was much spread out over the city in terms of housing, but fortunately the more favourable financial situation in Germany compared to Switzerland allowed us to meet up more often in cafes in the city centre. I was happy to move into a single apartment just outside the city centre, a very lovely place. During the wintertime, the market square of Aachen turned into a big Christmas market, bringing a lot of ambiance to the old town. Of course us geophysicists soon found out where to get the best gluhwein and bratwurst, so many joyful evenings were spent there.
During the Aachen semester I followed the following courses: Data Analysis, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Spectral Induced Polarisation, Remote Sensing of Sedimentary Basins, Numerical Reservoir Engineering, Hydrogeophysics, Sedimentary Basin Dynamics, Petroleum Systems Modelling, Geophysical Logging and Engineering Geophysics. Apart from this I followed the interesting course Biomedical Imaging for a while, but unfortunately this course wasn’t considered as an optional course for this programme so I could not obtain any credits for this course. Without going into much detail about any of the above mentioned courses, I would like to recommend to future students to take the courses Numerical Reservoir Engineering and Engineering Geophysics, since I really enjoyed taking these courses and found them a valuable addition to the entire study programme. Apart from these courses, a course which I didn’t do but which my fellow classmates recommended is Numerical Methods for Geophysical Flows.
The final semester
At the moment I am moving my belongings back to Delft and next week the final and fourth semester will start: the master thesis. The topic of my thesis is ”Full Waveform Inversion of vertical seismic profile and surface data to verify the impact of multiples and validate low saturation gas” and I will be doing this thesis together with supervisors from Delft Inversion, Wintershall and the DUT. I can’t wait to start! As a conclusion I would like to say that considering all the ups and downs of the MSc programme Applied Geophysics, it has more than fulfilled my expectations and I am very happy that I chose to do this. Finally I would sincerely like to thank my sponsors for enabling me to get the most out of my studies. It has been a very valuable time for me and I am very grateful that you are supporting me in this.
Student Applied Geophysics