Like everyone else who has shared their story, how can anyone turn Owen Hopkins down? How did I get into Geophysics? Well, first off, I knew from the time that I was twelve that I wanted to be a scientist. I know, I know that is hopelessly nerdy, but it is a fact. I was a really strong student in math as well. In high school most of my closest friends (including my girlfriend) were focused on science. But what area of science, that was the unanswered question. The neighbor in the house behind ours was an electrical engineer and that sounded pretty cool. He even helped me win the local IEEE scholarship. One day though, I received a letter from the Texas A&M Geophysics department inviting me to come visit. They also listed a large array of scholarships available for Geophysics majors. It turns out they sent the letter to all the high school seniors in Texas who had done well on their SAT tests.
My friend in school, Daryl Silva also received the invitation. Our high school permitted seniors to make two trips to visit a college, so Daryl and I drove to College Station to check it out. We received the full treatment with the various professors showing off their labs and calling me Mr. Bergsma. Then they offered scholarships to both of us. Hey, I was sold. This does not mean I had any real clue what geophysics was or what I might be doing for a living. I had to call the neighbor and turn down the IEEE scholarship.
The academic program in geophysics at A&M was a real grind. I had to study all the time, as did most of my classmates. We would work impossible physics problem sets together for hours upon hours. One of my classmates described working on the problem sets as the cumulative wisdom of individual ignorance (he ended up as a physics professor at the University of Alabama). I hit an academic speed bump during the fall of my senior year at A&M. My girlfriend had broken up with me, and my Mom was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. It did not help that I was taking a murderous class on what is now called AVO from the beloved Dr. Gangi. He disliked us as much as we disliked him. I made a C grade in the class and kissed it on the lips. I did better in the spring and graduated in 1976.
During the summer between my Junior and Senior years, I had the great good fortune to work as a summer intern for Houston Oil & Minerals. They sent me on offshore rigs, seismic crews in south Louisiana, and New Mexico and had me working on little mapping projects. They were a very aggressive company with lots of drilling and seismic acquisition. Upon, graduation, they hired me full time. Working there was a great experience. It was a time of great expansion in the oil business leading to a full blast boom. Of course, it did not last and like most of us, I have had to scratch a bit. Over the long haul things have worked out. Some highlights of my career have been working for Paul Strunk, Michael Johnson, and now a vast array of clients like Mike Lucente, Jim Claughton and Ed Riddle. One thing has surprised me. I thought in college that I was preparing to be a scientist and I was. But no one told me I would have to be a salesman as well.