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Career Profiles

Doris M. Curtis

Geological Consultant

The geologic career of Doris Curtis has taken her all around the country and involved her in work in a variety of institutions. When she went to college she wanted to major in biology. However, all the biology classes were closed so she took a geology class instead and went on to major in geology. She received her M.A. degree in geology from Columbia University in 1934. Her research in graduate school was in the field of micropaleontology; her other specialities in stratigraphy, sedimentology, and petroleum geology are an outgrowth of that work. After graduate school, she moved to Houston and started working for oil companies. She worked for Shell Oil Company and also completed her Ph.D. She taught geology at the University of Houston and at the University of Oklahoma and currently is an adjunct professor at Rice University in Houston. In 1959 she returned to Texas and to Shell, where she worked until her retirement in 1979. After retiring, she and Dorothy Echols, a friend from graduate school, started their own consulting firm and have been busy ever since.

She does the same kind of work now that she used to do when working at Shell. She tries to predict where, and how deep in the earth, undiscovered reservoirs containing hydrocarbons (oil and gas) might be found. To do this, she maps depositional environments and depositional systems in the subsurface of different areas, mainly in the Gulf Coast.

When she became a geologist more than 50 years ago, there weren't many women geologists. But even then there were some very famous ones. They were professors and research geologists who worked for the United States Geological Survey, and they all did field work, mostly in the eastern United States. They had such good reputations that people in that part of the country didn't think it was strange for a woman to want to be a geologist. But when she went to Houston to find a job in an oil company, things were different: it was really hard for a woman to get a job. But she persisted, and when people saw that she was serious about wanting to be a geologist she was hired. Her long career at Shell Oil Company was always fascinating, because whenever she thought up a new way of doing something, or something new to do, she was allowed to do it. Probably the most exciting months of her career were spent as a ship-board scientist on the deep-sea research ship Glomar Challenger, exploring the sediments and rocks below the deep ocean bottoms of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

She also has had a wonderful time being part of the geological professional organizations, not only being a member, but working on committees and being elected to hold office in several of them. She was appointed to several national and international committees so she got to meet many interesting people and to travel a lot, including five trips to Paris. Now she is the first woman President of the Geological Society of America, which was founded almost 103 years ago. She still enjoys her career and learns something new every day.

If you are interested in earth science, she says, "Go for it. Earth science is everywhere. It affects all of us and citizens should have input into governmental decision-making."