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Eyes into lost worlds

Gift provides educational insight, career opportunities for students

by Crystal Lamb | August 31, 2016

Eyes into lost worlds

Earth Sciences students are getting hands-on experience in reconstructing what’s happening far beneath the Earth’s surface, thanks to a generous gift of software from IHS Markit.

The software package, valued at more than $1 million, is the largest donation to date from IHS Markit, a global source of information and analytics for companies in a number of industries, including manufacturing, technology, energy and automotive, and longtime supporter of Western’s Earth Sciences program.

With these tools, students have the opportunity to take real data from oil and gas wells in western Canada and learn to use it in a number of ways that will allow them to recreate lost worlds now buried by kilometres of rock, said Earth Science professor Burns Cheadle, PhD’86, Director of Corporate Relations & Student Development in the Faculty of Science.

“This very generous gift allows our students to learn by getting access to real-world data and real-world tools,” said Cheadle, who worked in the oil and gas industry in Calgary for 25 years before retiring and returning to teach at Western, his alma mater.

“As we emphasize experiential learning and professional development in students in Science, it’s through support like this that those experiences are possible. Without this gift students would have a much less authentic learning environment.”

Providing students access to this software aligns with the commitment to corporate sustainability at IHS Markit and giving back in support of initiatives around the world related to “living well, living wise and living green,” said Marilyn Johnson, Head of Sustainability at IHS Markit.

“We look at the value of giving back to the community in a number of ways. Every year, our staff gives back thousands and thousands of hours volunteering, in addition to our charitable giving. Last year, our giving of in-kind donations in support of education was the equivalent of more than $184 million (U.S.) of software given in more than 50 countries and at more than 350 institutions around the world.”

Two of the primary areas in which IHS Markit has technology it gifts to universities are geoscience applications and petroleum engineering applications, both of which are very technical areas, explained Russell Roundtree, Vice-President of Geoscience and Engineering at IHS Markit.

“Often professors are tasked with attempting to create a curriculum that addresses technical problems that are quite difficult to resolve in other programs, such as Excel. We provide a relatively easy-to-use and simple application to help guide professors through a lot of problems that students will encounter in the working world,” Roundtree said.

“Any time you gift technology to a university it’s a two-phased approach: one is to make the software available to them; the other is to liaise with the professor, and perhaps the students directly, on what problems this software solves and how best to apply its use in the established curriculum.”

Having students trained to use their software is beneficial to IHS Markit, students and the oil and gas industry, in general, Johnson said.

“We want graduates coming into the workforce to be familiar with IHS Markit software and insights and how they can use our tools when they get out into the real world,” she continued. “A segment of our customers hire graduates in the oil and gas sector and they are always emphasizing how important it is for students to be familiar with the technologies and the workflows associated with them. For these companies, applying real-world technology in the classroom is an important step to lead students into the workforce.”

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Impact Western
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