After winning the Italian Challenge Bowl held during the 38th edition of GNGTS in Rome on November 14th, 2019, we were excited to leave for Houston (Texas) and participate in the 90th Annual Meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), as representatives of our country and Europe at the global Challenge Bowl. This opportunity represented a more unique than rare opportunity to participate in an international conference for two master’s students.

From October 11th to 16th we participated in the SEG Annual Meeting, held virtually. Although the experience is not comparable to taking part in such an event in person, the event has been organized with extreme attention by SEG allowing us to deepen our study themes, observe new and/or different ways of approaching problems, create a student network and meet prominent personalities in the research field as well as  industry.

October 24th was the day of the Challenge Bowl. The format is similar to the Italian competition and consists of 3 heats each of 3 rounds in which 14 teams from the different regions of the world, where the SEG holds local competitions. This year, in addition to the usual group of US teams, at the starting line there were two Canadian teams, three Chinese, an Egyptian team and South America represented by the reigning champions of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata.

Screen of the SEG Challenge Bowl World Finals 2020 presentation shown by Peter Duncan.

The questions cover all areas of geophysics (seismics, potential fields, EM methods, electrical methods), of geology, going into more varied topics such as curiosities and history of geosciences, planetology, physics, chemistry and history of the SEG.

Starting a little quietly in the very first round, we immediately recovered, thanks to our geological/geophysical knowledge that allowed us to easily overcome the first battery, at the end of which the last four teams were eliminated. From this moment on, we have always maintained scores such as to remain in the top 3, thanks to a much wider preparation in all areas that distinguishes us from other more specialized realities.

However, this proved to be a “double-edged sword”, when in the last round, giving battle to the other four teams in the game, a series of very specific questions allowed Team Tuzo (team from the University of Toronto) to acquire an unbridgeable advantage in the last round. Although the network lag time was slightly higher than our opponents, we were able to answer correctly the last round questions, which allowed us to accumulate the necessary points to position ourselves in second overall place, managing to reach the Italian record of all times in this competition.

The happiness of reaching such a high position in this event is much stronger when you compare our team to the others, mostly of PhD students. Furthermore, the experience of competing virtually, whilst it took away the pleasure of going to the USA, allowed us to deal with the remote activities challenges, which nowadays we are all facing daily. Those challenges must be tackled in a positive and energetic way even in situations of “stress”, considering it as a possibility and not an obstacle. We are therefore proud to have reached this milestone in such a particular year and to have raised the name of the Italian Section EAGE-SEG, of the University of Naples “Federico II”, of our Department (Department of the Earth, Environmental and Resources Sciences-DiSTAR) and of our SEG Student Chapter “University of Naples Federico II”. For all this, we are grateful to the EAGE-SEG Italian Section. We want to thank the EAGE-SEG Italian Section also for granting us the use the travel reimbursement in the future to join the international congress in 2021, when hopefully to attend in presence will be possible once again.

Luigi Bianco e Salvatore Buoninfante dopo aver conquistato il secondo posto alla finale mondiale del SEG Challenge Bowl 2020.


Luigi Bianco and Salvatore Buoninfante competing against the other teams coming from USA, Canada, China, Egypt, Argentina and Mexico.