by Jan Hester
Marc Tappert, lab chemist, Asset Integrity at ConocoPhillips Alaska, came to his career in oil and gas by coincidence. Born in Aix‑en‑Provence, Marc spent the first 18 years of his life in the south of France and grew up fluent in both English and French. “Because I was home schooled by my mother, I learned both languages simultaneously. I was brought up with a broad cultural experience and knew people from everywhere.
“My mom was a great educator. My oldest brother has an MBA from UT Austin. Another got a master’s in public administration from the University of Oklahoma. And my younger brother is finishing his MBA at UT Austin.”
As for Marc’s education, having worked at ConocoPhillips since he was a university sophomore, he will soon complete his Ph.D. in materials chemistry.
At age 18, Marc decided to pursue a chemistry degree in the U.S., with the goal of going into forensic science. Leaving the south of France was a difficult decision. “In 2009, unemployment was very high, and I didn’t see a future there.”
Accepted at numerous universities, Marc was drawn to Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Okla. for its small size and low student-to-professor ratio.
When Marc was a sophomore, opportunity knocked. “Someone from the Bartlesville labs contacted my faculty advisor requesting internship candidates, so he put my name in the hat.”
Marc came to work at the company as a contractor instead of an intern. Working 10 to 20 hours a week, he managed to complete his undergrad degree in 3 1/2 years.
Along the way, his career plans morphed. “As I got further into my studies, I realized how passionate I was about oil and gas, so I decided to stay in the field.” In 2012, Marc was hired by ConocoPhillips as a full-time lab technician.
In 2014, he started his Ph.D. studies at the University of Tulsa. “I couldn’t have done it without the company’s help through the tuition reimbursement plan.”
As a senior technician at the Bartlesville labs, the meat of his role was addressing flow assurance issues that impact production, with a focus on wax.
“Marc provided invaluable support to almost all the global business units,” said Senior Engineer Yaqin Wu. “In addition, he set up and commissioned several new instruments that are vital to our work, as well as furthering our ability to characterize produced fluids and chemical selection. Marc focuses on continuous improvement, both in his lab work and his education.”
Opportunity knocked again in the guise of Principal Engineer Steve Appleyard, who saw a posting for a position in Alaska and brought it to Marc’s attention. “My plan was to finish school and then look for something, but I talked to my wife and put in an application the next day.” He accepted an offer and started June 1 at ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Kuparuk labs on Alaska’s North Slope, where he works two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off.
“Marc chose a difficult route to study for a Ph.D. — combining studies with a full-time job,” said Appleyard. “His success is a testament to his tenacity, time management and sheer strength of character.”
Marc enjoys working on the North Slope. “It’s rewarding to expand my knowledge base. There’s a different perspective working in the field after working in a lab day in and day out. It’s very isolated, so we have to be resourceful and plan ahead as much as possible.”
Marc will finish his degree mid-2020 and is currently working on his dissertation on a topic with direct implications for wax-related flow assurance issues. He and his thesis advisor, Dr. Dale Teeters, have filed a provisional patent.
Marc and his wife Melisa have a black lab puppy named Emmi and a crochety nine-year-old cat, Einstein. He’s planning a trip to France to celebrate completing his Ph.D. “My wife has been once, and I would like to take her back, especially to Paris. I’m trying to organize a trip for a group of friends from college so I can act as translator.”
Marc enjoys kayaking, running and hiking with his dog at Osage Hills State Park. “I gained 50 pounds my first year in the U.S. and had to find a way to shed it.”
He also likes board game nights with friends, entertaining and hosting people. “I love to cook and enjoy international foods such as Indian and French.”
Marc is pleased with life. “I appreciate the people who have supported me in my career, my personal life and my education — especially Yaqin Wu, Robert Webb and Steve Appleyard. It has been an interesting period that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
ConocoPhillips provides financial assistance programs to support employees through a variety of life events, including tuition reimbursement to attain undergraduate and advanced degrees, certifications and professional memberships. The U.S. Tuition Reimbursement Policy helps employees further their knowledge, skills and job effectiveness through higher education in fields of interest to the company. Tuition refunds are offered to regular full-time or regular part-time employees. To participate, employees must obtain their supervisor’s pre-approval before enrolling in the desired course(s) or degree program.