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Candra GrossUndergrad Lays Groundwork for Geophysics Career in Industry

When Candra Gross graduates in spring 2010, she will receive two diplomas—one in math from Fort Valley State University in Georgia, the other in geosciences from Penn State.

Gross is one of a handful of students at University Park in a 3+2 degree program that brings undergraduates to Penn State for coursework in geosciences. The goal of the dual-degree program is to educate minority geoscientists and engineers for the petroleum industry.

This past summer, Gross got a jumpstart on a career in industry through the 3+2 program when she worked as a geophysics intern for Marathon Oil Co. based in Houston. As part of her internship, she applied her classroom knowledge about seismic profiles to a potential drilling site in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was a lease sale, and I had to plan a vertical seismic profile of the site,” said Gross who came to Penn State in January 2008. “I was looking at about 25,000 feet below the ocean surface.”

A second-semester junior, Gross was already familiar with Penn State when she arrived to begin her geosciences course work. During the summers of 2006 and 2007, Gross had participated in AfricaArray Summer Field Courses.

Her 2006 trip to South Africa was a first in many ways.

“It was my first time out of the country and my first real exposure to geology and geophysics,” Gross said. “Being in the field was good—you get to apply what you learn in class.”

Her 2007 AfricaArray trip was equally hands-on: She helped to install a seismic station in Uganda and then used that firsthand knowledge to research a 2006 earthquake in Mozambique.

Gross already knows what’s next for her: After she gets those two diplomas, she plans on staying at Penn State to earn a master’s degree.

“Geophysics is interesting—I can use math to get results,” Gross said. “And it offers a balance between being in an office and being in the field.”