Fractured rocks, soaring oil rigs that move on hydraulic legs, and massive wind turbines are just some of the aspects of the nation’s energy industry that a group of Franklin & Marshall College students experienced during five days over winter break in Denver.
“We had a lot of experiences that few people get,” said Stanley Mertzman, the Dr. Earl D. Stage and Mary E. Stage Professor of Geoscience. “We were up on an oil rig and in the rig master’s house.”
F&M Trustee Dave Lehman ’68, CEO of the Denver-based energy firm DJ Resources, and F&M Trustee Mike Arnold ’08, vice president of energy investment firm IOG Capital, initiated the five-day program to give the students a closer look at the energy industry from science and business perspectives.
“We wanted to create a platform for students to get a real firsthand experience in the oil and gas industry,” Arnold said. “Dave approached the industry from a geoscience perspective while I came from a finance perspective. Joining the two departments in this experience seemed like a logical path for a true interdisciplinary experience.”
The 16 students, a mix of geoscience, environmental science, environmental studies, and business, organizations & society majors, attended seminars lead by Denver-area alumni. They visited a fracking site, an oil rig, an oil and gas field, a wind turbine, the U.S. Geological Survey Core Research Center, and the National Renewable Energy Lab.
“It was a really good blending of some science and some business and how the two interact,” said Alan Glazer, the Henry P. and Mary B. Stager Professor of Business, who with Mertzman accompanied the students. “I was amazed at how much science there was in what is fundamentally a business decision – do we drill or not?”
Students were fascinated by the oil rig with hydraulic legs.
“This was a platform that would drill numerous wells. It was used to drill a well, then would use its legs to shift over and drill another, then shift over and drill another,” said Beck Tabor, a senior geoscience major. “They have miles of pipe stored on the platform. They go 2 miles down and 2 miles out horizontally.”
The trip wasn’t all science and business. The students also visited Denver’s 7-year-old American Museum of Western Art – The Anschutz Collection; Red Rocks Park, known for its large, red sandstone outcrops; and the 111th National Western Stock Show, which included a rodeo.
“Everyone had fun going to the rodeo,” said Jack Rosenthal ’06, geoscience supervisor at DJ Resources, who organized much of the week’s program and led several of the seminars. “Just exposing people to different opportunities is important.”
At their daylong visit to the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo., the nation’s primary research and development laboratory for solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources, the students found a completely green facility.
“Everything about this building was constructed to be as sustainable as possible,” said Monica Chenier, a junior environmental science major. “Even the carpet was made of recyclable material.”
About 40 F&M alums live in the Denver area and the students took advantage of the opportunity to network. Some alums hosted the students at their homes, including David Lehman’s daughter, Lisa ‘01,
“It was really cool to see the alums and the successes they’ve had, and just the sheer number of people in the Denver area who went to F&M,” said Coleman Kline, a senior in environmental studies who stayed with Rachel Alpert ’07 and her husband, Dan, a therapist and a computer engineer, respectively. “It was really enjoyable spending time with them.”
As an F&M alumnus, David Lehman said he was impressed with the faculty and students who attended the weeklong event.
“I am really proud of how the F&M students and professors who came on the trip were such great ambassadors for the College,” Lehman said. “They were attentive, asked insightful questions, and to a person, a pleasure to meet and talk with.”