Julio Leva Lopez, PhD

Julio graduated from the Jackson School in August 2014 and currently works for BP America.

Describe what you do in simple terms.

I interpret and integrate different types of subsurface data (seismic, well-logs, pressure records, production records, etc.) to reconstruct the history of the basin so we can better constrain and understand the petroleum systems of that basin.

How did you find your job?

I had an internship in a small independent oil company, where I obtained some experience and more importantly contacts. That year unfortunately the company was unable to hire new employees, but my boss contacted people in BP America and other companies and passed my resume around, which allowed me to get an interview and ultimately my job at BP.

When did you feel this was the right career/job for you?

I am still trying to figure out where I want my career to go and what specific role or job I want to go for. I have always been happy and excited about being a geologist/stratigrapher since day one of my licenciatura (the rough equivalent of a BS in Spain).

How do you spend a typical day/week?

Right now I spend most of my days interpreting seismic and cross-checking those interpretations with well-logs and other data. Throughout the day there will always be some meeting about nearby fields that my group is working on, seismic imaging, new prospects, etc. These are the perfect places to learn more about the business and about what is going on around my work. There is also some amount of wandering around to talk to people, ask what they are working on, helping if needed and just networking.

What is your schedule like?

I usually work 9 hours. I have the 9/80 schedule that gives me every other Friday free. But it depends on what I am doing, the urgency of the work, and the intensity of it.

What traits and skills do employers look for in your field?

I think the most important skills are an analytic mind that can solve problems, a thirst and capacity to learn, a good geological foundation, and responsibility. The job of a geologist is to solve puzzles and problems, and you always have to be learning new things and tools to solve those problems. And in the same way it is important to know how to own your mistakes and learn from them.

What type of degree do you need at your company?

For a geoscientist, most opportunities appear with an MS or PhD. There are some jobs with a BS but your career opportunities and prospects will usually be quite limited. An MS degree will give you the tools to start working, and BP will help you grow into what we call an integrated geoscientist, or a jack of all trades. The deeper knowledge of a PhD degree will set you on a specialist path. For non-Americans like me, most companies will only hire PhD graduates since it makes it easier to obtain a working visa.

What are some major responsibilities in your position?

My main responsibility right now is to update the geological description of a producing basin and to work with the rest of my group to integrate that description into petroleum system models. My entry project is to re-evaluate and update the “Integrated subsurface description” of a field, which is the geological history reconstruction of the field. Other typical projects might include defining sub-basins in regional studies, creating or updating velocity models for 3D seismic cubes or making well-log correlations for unconventional resources.

What do you find the most satisfying in your job?

To put the X on the map. As a geoscientist you are responsible (or at least partially) for putting the X on the treasure map that will lead to an oil discovery. It is very cool to know that your work will have a real impact in what happens in your company, and this is especially so in the case of geoscientists.

What recommendations do you have for someone looking to enter this field?

Work with as many people as possible and learn as many skills as possible in both internships and schoolwork. During my internship I tried to interact as much as possible with the engineers in the group, and this was seen positively while interviewing for full time positions. In the same way, having a PhD project that, in my case, tackled a problem not only with “classic” stratigraphic tools but also with mathematical and physical models, and working not only on my project but also collaborating in other projects and disciplines showed that I am happy to learn new tools and that I am enthusiastic about my work.

What are some specific classes that you found useful?

I found 3D seismic stratigraphy by Dr. David Mohrig a very good class where you not only have a crack at seismic interpretation, but you do it keeping in mind and highlighting the pitfalls of the sedimentary record.

Another very useful class is “Fundamentals of Well-logging” in the Petroleum Engineering department with Dr. Carlos Torres-Verdïn. This course will give you some understanding of petrophysics and teach you the basics of well-log interpretation.

What kind of internships or jobs do you think are good training ground?

Any job or internship will give you good experience. Even a temp job in Starbucks will give you some skills. It will all depend in where you want to go, if you know that at all. If you know where you want to go, you can try to get into a company that is specialized on that. For example, BP is very good at seismic imaging, and it is focused in deep water.

Are there any useful publications, organizations, or events you think would be helpful to students?

AAPG is the organization of choice if you are interested in the oil industry. I found the annual AAPG meeting to be too big to network effectively. Actually, the smaller IAS annual conference, the regional AAPG conferences, and the SEPM focus session that takes place during the annual AAPG are much better and easier places to make contacts.

3 Simple Tips for College Students

Talk to people and make contacts.

Go to conferences; let yourself be seen.

If it is possible, get internships in different companies. Shop for the one that is more suitable for you.

Speed Round

What is your favorite rock or mineral?

Quartz. Sounds boring but it is so cool in cathodoluminescence.

Three words that describe your job environment.

Relaxed, friendly, collaborative.

If you were suddenly removed from your job, what would you miss the most about it?

My co-workers. There are some very cool people in my group.

One thing you wish you did more in your job.

Field work. I miss being in the field away from a desk and a computer.

Most tedious task you have to do in your job.

Dealing with badly organized data and poorly documented projects.


-Compiled and edited by Alan Morales Sandoval