Faculty Spotlight

Knapp's passion for earth sciences leads her to geology

A love of math, physics and the outdoors adds up to one passionate geologist.

You can find all of those traits in Camelia C. Knapp, the new Boone Pickens School of Geology head.

Her love of the outdoors led her to complete a five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program in geophysics and earth science at the University of Bucharest in Romania. After graduation, she landed a position as a field geophysicist at a Romanian oil company and later became a seismologist with the National Institute for Earth Physics in Romania.

A few years later, she used her Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research at Cornell University, where she ended up earning a doctorate in geophysics and tectonics.

Knapp began in academia in 2000 as a research assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, where she discovered her passion for teaching. She came to OSU from South Carolina, where she was a professor and director of the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute.

“I believe teaching is an attractive and fulfilling path,” she said, citing her enjoyment of interacting with students. “I usually have many undergraduate students doing research in my lab, and quite a few graduate students as well.”

Knapp believes that while her new job will bring its share of challenges, it will come with a plethora of opportunities.

“OSU has a very strong geology school, especially in petroleum geology,” Knapp said. “I’m excited to brainstorm with the faculty about where the school is and where we want it to be,” including such possibilities as hiring internationally known faculty, growing the Ph.D. program, expanding the undergraduate enrollment, and connecting with more petroleum companies in surrounding states.

She already has a considerable amount of experience with petroleum geology, as well as environmental geosciences, and energy resources geology. Her projects span from topics such as climate change and geophysics to carbon sequestration and marine geophysics. Most recently, she worked to analyze the seabed in the Atlantic Ocean for wind-energy development initiatives. She wants to continue some of her research projects with the help of her students, including some graduate students who are planning to follow her from South Carolina.

In addition, she is also looking forward to being part of the OSU community, naming the “friendliness and quality of people” as a very attractive feature of Stillwater and the campus.

She found OSU’s supportive environment very appealing and is optimistic that she and her team can achieve their goals.

“We all do this together,” Knapp said. “This is teamwork.”

She is also very impressed with the level of commitment shown by the alumni of the geology school.

“They are a very supportive group of high-quality professionals who work in the field and are very dedicated to providing resources for the school,” Knapp said. “I am impressed by and thankful for their level of support to our school.”

She hopes to connect with the alumni advisory board and work with its members to continue to increase the level of support shown by the school’s graduates.

Knapp has received substantial recognition for her efforts in teaching and research throughout her career. She was awarded the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Foundation Scholarship while pursuing her doctorate. In 2011, the University of South Carolina named her a Rising Star for her innovations and accomplishments in research, and in 2013 she was named a Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor. In 2018, she received the Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award from USC.

She was also involved in a number of university-sponsored organizations and committees in South Carolina, including the Faculty Welfare Committee, the Faculty Advisory Committee, the University Committee for Tenure and Promotion, the Faculty Grievance Committee, the Faculty Budget Committee, and the Women’s Connections Mentoring Network.

She is very passionate about her research, her students and, of course, her family. Knapp’s husband, James, is also a new member of the geology faculty at OSU, serving as the Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair of Geoscience. She trusts that the support of her husband, their two daughters, her father who moved to Stillwater with them and the OSU community will make the transition to her new position a smooth one.

“It really seems to be a good fit,” she said. “I’m excited about OSU.”