Rocking on to a career in geological engineering

"Geological engineering allows me to combine my love of the outdoors, looking at cool rocks, and my drive to understand the geological processes that shape the earth."

UBC Geological Engineering student Owen Perfect at a steelmaking coal mine in BC
Owen on the job during his co-op experience with Teck at a steelmaking coal mine in BC

Owen Perfect

Growing up, my dad would take my brothers and I on backpacking trips in the Rocky Mountains, which sparked my love of the outdoors. When I was picking an engineering discipline to pursue, I wanted to choose something that incorporated my love of the outdoors. During my degree, I have pursued my interests in the geology and mining industries through courses as well as internships. Outside of school, my biggest passion is getting outside hiking and rock climbing.

The knowledge I have gained in geological engineering has given me a new appreciation and understanding for the geological processes that shape the outdoor spaces I am in. I find myself taking pictures of cool rocks wherever I go, and often recruit my brothers and friends as scales in the photos. Participating in events such as E-Week, the Geotechnical Engineering Competition, and Mining Games over the last few years has only amplified my passion for geological engineering. This degree will allow me to pursue my passion for nature both in and out of work, and I am excited to work alongside people I have built connections with over my degree.

Why did you choose to study engineering?

I pursued engineering initially because of my love of math and physics, and my drive to understand physics principals and answer the question: How does this work? I initially pictured myself pursuing mechanical or electrical engineering. However, the students, TAs, and professors that I met at the first-year geological engineering information session were truly passionate about sharing their experience in the program. They shared my passion for being outside, exploring, and understanding the natural world around me. I was drawn to geological engineering by the opportunity to pursue my passion for the outdoors with likeminded people.

Owen Perfect rock climbing

What advice would you give to prospective geological engineering students?

Talk to your peers, TAs, and professors within your own program as well as in other programs to establish friendships and connections. Geological engineering is a versatile degree and is closely related to mining engineering, civil engineering, geology, and many other earth science programs. It is a unique environment where the people you meet, build connections with, and do assignments late into the night with, will later become colleagues.

Geological Engineering

How would you describe the GEOE student community?

I found the geological engineering community really welcoming. It is very tight knit small program with around 30 students which makes it easy to plan internal trips and events. Events include field trips to geological engineering projects or points of interest, mine tours, design competitions, and social events and usually involve all students.

One of my favourite experiences during my time at UBC was a three-week long geology field school, where I made lifelong friends and connections (and looked at cool rocks all day!). The relatively small number of students in geological engineering means it is easy to meet upper year students, ask them questions about upper year courses, and learn about their experiences in the program. I am grateful to have worked with a most excellent group of people throughout my degree including my peers, professors, TAs, and everyone else I met along the way.

UBC Geological Engineering students at the UBC - Teck Geological Field Station

How do you feel your degree has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

I feel the geological engineering program has given me the knowledge and tools to creatively approach technical problems. Geological engineering requires a detailed understanding of the natural processes that will impact a project. I have learned how to ask the right questions in order to address geological uncertainties and unknowns. I have come to appreciate the challenge in making and justifying decisions when there is a lack of key geological information.

What are your future plans to make a difference in our world?

I will be returning to the company where I was a co-op student, and work as a geotechnical EIT at an open pit mine. I will work with mining engineers, geologists, and mining crews to help ensure safe operation of the mine. Later in my career, I hope to explore the wide variety of geotechnical engineering projects associated with natural resources such as surface mining, underground mining, slope stability, tailings dams, tailings closure, tunneling, and many others.

I look forward to playing an important role in the future of sustainable mining.

How did your studies in the Faculty of Applied Science prepare you for the future of work?

The professors involved with the geological engineering department are experts in their field and have international recognition. Their courses have shed light on the increasing demand for energy, infrastructure, copper, and other metals. Moreover, they have emphasized the importance of geological engineers as we mine deeper, build larger, and tunnel farther than ever before.

Our professors have instilled in us an appreciation for the challenges we will face, as well as mentored the problem-solving skills we will require while pushing the boundaries of what is currently known in geological engineering.

UBC geological engineering student on a co-op placement at BC Research Inc.

Geological Engineering

UBC offers the Geological Engineering program in collaboration with the Faculty of Science, blending aspects of earth sciences, civil engineering and mining engineering with a fundamental understanding of the earth’s surface environments...

Geological Engineering

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