I’m really happy to have my friend, Kim featured on the blog today – you will probably recognize her from our trip to Vietnam because we had a great time with her and her husband – we also really enjoyed living with them in Korea and were sad to see them leave. Well, not only is she our travel companion, she’s also quite the geologist. She’s another wonderful example of someone who has studied science and had some really cool opportunities…in fact, she’s probably my favorite geologist! I’ll go ahead and let her introduce herself…
I am Kim Fangman, a 26 year old geologist who recently married an engineer. We have a small white poodle named “Penny.”I grew up in Houston, Texas and went to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. There, I double majored in Geology and Economics. After graduation I came back to Houston and received a master’s degree in Geology from the University of Houston.
I am now a geologist with Marathon Oil. I work in the Eagle Ford Operations team. The Eagle Ford is an unconventional shale play in south central Texas. I help “steer” lateral wells, and tell the rig where to drill down in the Earth. It is sort of like a video game. I receive new data every couple of hours, which I model in software. I then decide if we need to go up or down, left or right, to tap the best rock for producing oil and gas.
As a side note, I think masters programs in science are one of the best kept secrets. Many masters programs for geology will give you a full ride to attend the school, and a small stipend, if you are a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate classes. I was fortunate enough to be in one of these programs, and TAing really enhanced my experience beyond paying for school. Having to teach and clearly explain the basics of geology really solidified the knowledge and I am sure it will help me in the future. Most jobs in geology do require a master’s degree, which takes around 2 years to complete.
Why did you become a geologist?
I definitely did not go to college expecting to become a geologist. I viewed geologists as “mountain men,” very rugged like Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak. I am not the most outdoorsy person; I was in a ballet company throughout school.
But, I was in the liberal arts school at Vanderbilt, which required everyone to take an intro science course freshman year. I, like many students, assumed Geology would be the easiest, so I took it. It did not turn out to be easy, but it just seemed really interesting to me and I was good at it.
I found out I have a knack for really understanding things spatially, visualizing in 3D, and am good at maps (which is important, because a professional geologist’s product really is just different types of maps). Geology was more fun for me than economics. I fell into the perfect fit, which is why I really recommend keeping an open mind in college and taking a variety of courses. I became more open to camping and hiking along the way, too!
What projects have you done while studying or working as a geologist?
While in school I primarily worked on two research projects. The first used video footage of the ocean floor taken by divers below sea ice around Antarctica. I mapped the ocean floor and identified and counted the various critters I saw. There were mainly scallops, eels, worms, sea cucumbers, and star fish. I really enjoyed the project because I was helping to explore part of the world that had never been seen or studied.
My master’s thesis research was also on Antarctica. I took sediment samples in front of glaciers and analyzed them to see when the glaciers retreated, and how fast.
Have you had the chance to travel anywhere? If so, where and why?
Geologists get to travel, and to many exciting places! It is sort of integral to the job. I went to Antarctica for 3 months during my masters program. I was on an ice breaker that went right up to glaciers and allowed me to catch sediment samples for my research. I was close enough to touch penguins, whales, and seals! I also traveled around Chile on the trip.
With my undergraduate classes I hiked around the Appalachians, and went to conferences in San Francisco and Portland to present my findings. With Marathon I get to go on a one week training course each year in a different location to learn about the geology of that area. I am going to the beach in South Carolina this year. Some of my friends at work are going to Spain and France!
What have you enjoyed most about being a geologist?
I have enjoyed the travel opportunities, and the people I work with. I have coworkers that are passionate about what they do, and who are very friendly, caring people. It makes work something I look forward to. I think part of the reason for my pleasant work environment is geologists aren’t trapped behind a desk every day. We get out into the field, visit a rig, and really feel like we are part of the action and making decisions.
Any advice to aspiring women interested in a career in science?
Don’t shy away from science or engineering because you don’t think it fits with your persona. Just like I didn’t have to be Pierce Brosnan to be a geologist, you don’t have to be a character from the Big Bang Theory to be an engineer or have a PHD. If you enjoy a subject, have a knack for math and science, just go for it!