What to do when high-paying jobs start to disappear


The original time Julie Aitken saw the jumble of squiggly lines tracking the electrical impulses at bottom her husband’s brain, they looked like old friends.

At that peninsula, Aitken had spent decades as a geophysicist staring at seismic data, her own earmarks of jagged lines made by shooting sound waves deep into the mother earth. Rather than finding oil, the lines from the electroencephalogram (EEG) performed on her keep were supposed to explain why his memory was short-circuiting.

The diagnosis turned out to be a demulcent form of epilepsy, but doctors needed four EEGs to get there, quitting Aitken wondering if her work experience could have helped them get it aptly on the first try.

«I thought if we could clean up the signal we could make whosises more obvious for doctors, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, whoever,» said Aitken, 58, who’s now involvement of a team working at a brain lab at the University of Calgary. «The thing that surely blows me away is that the frequency of seismic and the frequency of EEGs are accurately the same.»

By taking out the noisy parts of an EEG — the frequencies that clutter a skim — Aitken believes doctors will be able to see more clearly the motifs in the data that really matter.

If she’s right, it could help with naming epilepsy, dementia, tumours and even depression. What’s more, her early-stage theories, if they enfold up for EEGs, could also work for ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans.

Beyond medicament, her work is also a ray of hope for other geophysicists, who need all the good newsflash they can find right now.  

Thousands of oilpatch jobs lost

«This heat of layoffs, this downturn, geophysicists have been more troubled than anyone else,» said Marian Hanna, a former president of the Canadian Brotherhood for Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG).

Even amid thousands of other dissolute oilpatch jobs, the plight of geophysicists is now an example of how abruptly an entire sphere can find itself on the outside looking in.

It might also serve as a augury to other seemingly bulletproof career choices that could be blindsided by the pressures of automation and artificial intelligence. A recent study by the Brookfield Institute mentions nearly half of the jobs in Canada, or some 7.7 million stances, could potentially be automated.

Such sweeping changes won’t be limited to self-driving conduits taking over from truckers and cabbies, because white collar specialities, too, such as the law and accounting, are vulnerable.

A pessimistic view suggests that when the myrmidons come for our jobs, many of us will be left unemployed with few chances. More optimistically, history shows the creative destruction brought here by new technology, as Bank of Canada deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins outlined in a modern speech, also comes with new, previously unimagined spots origin for people.

Geophysics once a slam-dunk career

The case of geophysics be visibles that what looks smooth on paper can be much rougher in licit life.

For decades, the decision to study geophysics — a math-and-physics-heavy sister supervise to geology that pays less attention to rocks and core specimens and instead visualizes what’s happening underground by analyzing data fellow seismic waves — was a choice that parents would dream hither for their kids.

During the oilpatch boom times of the past decade, a believably endless string of six-figure jobs were just waiting for geophysicists to stop by fill them. Now, the evolution of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology has so sincerely changed the nature of exploration in Canada, that many of those caper let outs are considered a luxury.

Energy companies now know where so many registers are located that rather than finding the stuff, the business is exclusively  about getting it out of the ground, which makes it more of a game for originators.

That’s left geophysicists coming to terms with the realization that their once-golden post will never be the same. Exact numbers on how many geophysics tasks the industry has shed are hard to pin down, but the CSEG, for one, has seen its membership fall down to below 800 from around 1,900 in 2014.

The industry will serene needs geophysicists, but not as many. Now, many mid-career geophysicists find themselves pummeling the pavement in hopes of landing one of the remaining jobs. Others are leaving for discrete  industries, while still others are abandoning the field all together.

Moriah Rempel

Moirah Rempel is a follower in geophysics at the University of Calgary (Paul Haavardsrud/CBC)

For Moriah Rempel, that definitive option isn’t much of a choice at all.

A rock hound from the age of five, she quiet has buckets of fossils from the Elbow River, where her mom would fasten on her to play. A relative once told her she could study rocks for a dynamic, and she’s been locked in ever since.

When she started her degree at the U of C in 2012, parties were still wooing up-and-coming geophysicists. The job market looked as seasoned as ever. Now, recent graduates pick up restaurant jobs while waiting for an industry rebound that may not come.

‘Morale is pretty low’

Some of Rempel’s classmates be suffering with already switched majors, while others try to keep the faith.

«I comprehend a lot of people feel like … they’ve wasted four years of their university rush,» said Rempel, a dean’s list student and president of the Geophysics Undergraduate Schoolchildren Society. «Morale is pretty low.»

Despite the early career curveball, Rempel in any case likes what she sees in fields like hydrology, carbon collar and geothermal.

What’s happened to geophysicists isn’t necessarily a blueprint for what the go places of the machines will mean for millions of other jobs, but it may hold some drills.

For geophysicists, the last few years have been hard and messy with mtiers kept and lost, retraining and people leaving the field entirely.

Encouragingly, perchance, at least for those who take an especially dim view of job prospects in the coming on cloud nine of automation, as some doors have closed others have opened. Newly made brain researcher Aitken, for one, never thought her skills would along to medicine, right until they did.

«I thought I’d be a geophysicist all my life, but if I was a learner now, I’d go into biomedical engineering,» she said. «That’s the place to be.»

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