by | Feb 22, 2020 | Challenge Bowl

Thanks to an unexpected victory in the Challenge Bowl – Italian selection, held during the 38th edition of the GNGTS in Bologna, Nicolò Bertone and I had the opportunity to fly to the States to compete again, taking part in the world selection. After 13 grueling flight hours we landed in Los Angeles, and then embarked on a subsequent 4-hour flight to get to our final destination: San Antonio, Texas, home of the 89th SEG conference.

The first thing that struck us (literally) in Texas was the humid heat, at the end of September, with its almost 40 ° C (99 ° F) and an “I think I need gills to breathe” effect. Seriously, the heat was “taken away” in the following days by the tropical storm Imelda which, fortunately for us, hit San Antonio only by a smear but enough to flood the streets (and bring us some extra heat).

The second thing that pleasantly impressed us about Texas was the extra-European size of everything (starting with the Texas-sized food) but above all the conference: a huge convention center in the heart of the city, fully set up, organized and ready to welcome almost 6000 participants, of which about 500 students from all over the world and 4, in particular, doctoral and master’s degree students from the University of Trieste (in addition to us also 2 girls participated in the SEG Evolve initiative).

The conference, organized in 4 days of presentations and initiatives, allowed us to deepen our knowledge on numerous issues related to our doctoral projects. We have collected ideas on how to develop research, offering new points of view on available technologies and allowing us to speak personally with members of companies, SEG managers and administrators and other students. In particular, the comparison with other students from different universities allowed us to share our experiences and knowledge. The conference was therefore incredibly interesting and stimulating, together with all the collateral events that allowed us to network and have fun. As for the Challenge Bowl, alas, we didn’t win.

The excitement was so great, having to challenge 11 different teams from North America, South America, Saudi Arabia, China, and India. We, together with another team from Germany, were the only European representatives ready to battle for the final prize. For the less prepared: the Challenge Bowl is a quiz challenge, in which specific questions relating to geophysics, physics or geology are asked, together with questions on the history of the SEG, which must (and should) be answered (possibly) correctly. It is a bit like the Millionaire’s TV quizzes, the conductor is not Gerry Scotti but Peter Duncan, an exceptionally euphoric man, and perfectly-identified with the role of presenter. Instead of having all the time you want, you have about 10 seconds, in some shifts even less, and 11 other teams are against you more fiercely than ever. In short, zero pressure, all very relaxed.

The tournament takes place in 3 rounds in which all are played simultaneously all against all and, at each end of the round, the questions became increasingly difficult; in the next round, only half of the teams pass (12 – 6 – 3). At the end of the first round, our previous preparation allowed us to rank (even) third! But even with the unexpected arrival of Aldo Vesnaver to support us for the second heat we were unable to take home the podium, and we finished fifth. Not an excellent result, but better than the wooden medal (better a 28 than a 29, isn’t it?). In any case, the experience was priceless and even if we didn’t bring any awards to Italy we are still incredibly grateful for the opportunity that was offered to us by the Italian section of the EAGE-SEG which sponsored our trip and allowed us to take the first steps in conferences of this caliber.

With the hope of participating in the Challenge Bowl again in the coming years, and hoping to defeat the competition and make up for defeat, we thank those who made this experience possible.


Alessandra Lanzoni & Nicolò Bertone