(MURFREESBORO) A nearly $2.2 million in-kind donation by Petroleum Experts Limited, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based company, will help Middle Tennessee State University geosciences undergraduates become more adept at geomapping and in turn enhancing their career prospects.
With the donation, Petex is granting access to the educational licenses of the Move Suite, an industry-leading software whose applications current and future MTSU students will have access to on campus.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee noted Petex's $2,180,000 donation during the August Fall Faculty Meeting to kick off the new academic year.
"It's software that will be used primarily by undergraduate students and a few graduate students," said geosciences professor Mark Abolins, who coordinated the agreement with Petex.
Abolins, who has been a geosciences faculty member for 20 years, emphasized the critical need for Petex's Move Suite because "there's a huge amount going on with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in this department."
"This donation allows a few undergraduates to take the next step," Abolins said. "This will help students understand the resources and the environment in the earth (shallow subsurface) just beneath our feet."
For the Midstate, ground water and caves are prevalent, but natural gas, oil and ore are found beyond Rutherford County, Abolins said.
"There isn't the interest in those things here because of the characteristics in the earth," he added. "This package will really boost our capability to work with this third dimension, the earth just beneath our feet."
Historically, undergraduates did not use the software, which was primed for graduate students or for those working in the private sector after earning their degree, Abolins said.
"This is an important gift that will help both our current students and our future students," College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer said.
"This gift will enhance the student experience by allowing students the opportunity to gain competence using an industry standard software, MOVE Structural Geology Modelling Software," Fischer added. "I commend Mark in his efforts to pursue this venture with Petex for the Geosciences Department."
MTSU student Braliegh Beshears, 20, a geosciences major from Ashland City, Tennessee, said geology "affects everyday life in a way most people don't realize. It impacts building construction, roads, fresh-water sources, even oil and gas are by-products of geology."
After graduation, Beshears said she would like "to work close to home, if at all possible. However, I have no objections to traveling (with my job), which is often necessary with geology."
As part of the agreement, Petex specified the software "has to be used on campus," Abolins said. "It is strictly for educational purposes."
Eleven students who are utilizing Move Suite this semester are in an MT Engage course called structural geology. In that course, the students learn about bent and broken rock and what bent and broken rock means for resources and the environment, Abolins said.
Vanderbilt University and a few dozen other universities worldwide utilize this software, he added.
MTSU's Department of Geosciences features 155 undergraduate majors, 12 graduate students, nine full-time faculty and two lecturers. Henrique Momm is the interim chair of the program.