Society of Exploration Geophysicists announces 2023 Honors and Awards recipients

One of SEG’s great traditions is the special recognition of individuals and organizations for their contributions to geophysics and to the Society.

The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) has announced its 2023 Honors and Awards recipients. Kurt J. Marfurt is the recipient of SEG’s highest honor, the Maurice Ewing Medal, awarded to a person who is deserving of special recognition for making major contributions to the advancement of the science and profession of exploration geophysics.

Marfurt is a remarkably productive geophysicist, author, and educator with a distinguished career in academia and the oil and gas industry. After completing his PhD in applied geophysics at Columbia University in 1978 and teaching there, he joined the Amoco Research Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a research geophysicist. During his tenure at Amoco, Marfurt made significant contributions to several processes and patents, in particular the development of seismic attributes. In 1999, Marfurt joined the faculty at the University of Houston where he served as director of the Allied Geophysical Laboratories. He continued to conduct research on seismic imaging and interpretation as well as data simulation, notably generating well-used synthetic data sets for the Marmousi model. In 2007, Marfurt joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma where he served as the Shultz Professor of Geophysics and is now professor emeritus. He has been involved with SEG as a short course instructor, associate editor of GEOPHYSICS, editor-in-chief of Interpretation, director at large on the SEG Board of Directors, and coauthor of more than 800 papers and abstracts.

James E. Gaiser is this year’s recipient of Honorary Membership, awarded to those who have made distinguished contributions to exploration geophysics or a related field or to the advancement of the profession of exploration geophysics through service to the Society. Gaiser has made major contributions to exploration geophysics during his 45 years of work in elastic-wave seismology and anisotropy as applied to surface and borehole seismic methods. He is an innovative researcher who has spent his career in the energy industry working in leading positions with companies that include ARCO, Western Geophysical, ION Geophysical, Geokinetics, and CGG where he has used advanced analytical techniques to solve exploration problems. Gaiser is especially known for his work on the application of converted waves to improve the understanding of anisotropic shale and imaging through gas zones as well as enhancing the full multicomponent workflow from acquisition to interpretation. Throughout his career, he has shared his knowledge and experience generously and has participated actively in numerous SEG committees.

Tariq Alkhalifah is the recipient of the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal, which is awarded to those who have made an outstanding contribution, either of a technical or professional nature, to the advancement of geophysical exploration. Alkalifah has been an active contributor to SEG for many years and received the J. Clarence Karcher award in 1998. He recognized the virtues of machine learning in our field and immediately became one of the frontrunners and experts in that area, inspiring others to follow. He has spearheaded the “Artificially Intelligent Earth Exploration” workshops in the Middle East to advance the science. He formed the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology DeepWave Consortium, continuing his cutting-edge research by embracing the latest innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence and creating a new research and learning environment for the next generation of geophysicists. The citations for his more than 25 papers on these topics are growing. His accomplishments constitute outstanding contributions to the advancement of the science of geophysical exploration as manifested during the previous five years.

The Reginald Fessenden Award recipients are Lasse Amundsen, Andrey Bakulin, Luc Ikelle, Subhashis Mallick, and Yanghua Wang. This honor is awarded to those who have made a specific technical contribution to exploration geophysics, such as an invention or a theoretical or conceptual advancement, which merits special recognition.

Amundsen is well known for his seabed seismic work and in a variety of areas in seismic and electromagnetic data processing and analysis. He is an adjunct professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and senior leader at Equinor. He coauthored, along with Dr. Luc Ikelle, SEG’s Introduction to Petroleum Seismology, second edition in 2018 and co-authored, along with Dr. M. Landrø, Bivrost’s Introduction to Exploration Geophysics (2018) and From Arrhenius to CO2 Storage (2023). For his many contributions and writings, SEG is pleased to recognize him with the Reginald Fessenden Award.

Bakulin, now working with Aramco and previously with Shell and Schlumberger, has made substantial contributions to interferometry theory and imaging and monitoring with virtual sources below a complex near surface, which have impacted many processing and acquisition applications. He was previously recognized with the J. Clarence Karcher Award for contributions in the areas of imaging scattering series, time-lapse seismic monitoring, inversion and processing for anisotropic media, rock physics, efficient acquisition for near-surface calibration and imaging using distributed acoustic sensing (DAS), and fracture characterization. The Fessenden Award recognizes his continuing exemplary contributions to exploration geophysics.

Ikelle was a professor of geophysics at Texas A&M University before joining Statoil and then founding his own company, Imode Energy. He has made major contributions to seismic acquisition and processing, especially via his publications Coding and Decoding Seismic Data: The Concept of Multishooting, volume one, second edition; the SEG classic, Introduction to Petroleum Seismology, second edition, 2018; and well as Introduction to Earth Science: A Physics Approach, second edition.

Mallick, currently a professor of geophysics at the University of Wyoming with previous employment at Chevron and WesternGeco, has made numerous contributions to exploration geophysics. In particular, his modeling and processing computer codes ANIVEC seismic anisotropy modeling and prestack full-waveform inversion (FWI) algorithms have been widely used in industry and academia. Along with his extensive technical contributions, Mallick has also acted as an associate editor and honorary lecturer for SEG.

Wang, now a professor of geophysics at Imperial College London with earlier leadership positions at Robertson Research, has made extensive contributions in seismic attenuation (Q) and inversion and is the author of more than 100 technical papers. Among these, his contributions in seismic amplitude tomography and in seismic multiple suppression have earned him recognition from his peers. His contributions have clarified our understanding of how seismic waves travel through real rocks while undergoing irreversible energy loss.

SEG awards Life Membership this year to Rocky Detomo and Donald Herron for their exceptional service to the Society.

Detomo has selflessly given his time and talents to SEG and ranks among the most consistent and generous of volunteers. Detomo has served the Society through Board of Directors service from 2015 to 2018 and currently sits on the SEG Foundation Board. He has traveled and lectured extensively as an SEG Honorary Lecturer and ambassador of SEG. Committee service is not uncommon among SEG members, but unwavering and active service on several committees year after year for decades is rare and a commitment that requires dedication and true focus on the greater good. Detomo’s service includes time on the Annual Meeting Steering Committee, Audit Committee, Development and Production Committee, Distinguished Lecture Committee, Meetings Review and Planning Committee, Membership Committee, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, and OTC Program Committee Representative. He has served and currently is serving several roles with EVOLVE and has openly and freely given much to the EVOLVE program. Detomo has always been there to help support our profession, society, science, and colleagues.

Herron has brought a little humor with good old-fashioned shade tree philosophy and a touch of wisdom to the lives of geophysicists for more than two decades. For many in our Society, he is better known as “Interpreter Sam.” His style of humor mingled with uniquely different stories tailored to the exploration geophysicist made his column “Interpreter Sam” a must read each month during its 2003–2019 publishing run in The Leading Edge (TLE). Herron’s commitment to the membership and Society has been unwavering throughout his career. He served on the TLE Editorial Board from 2002 to 2007 and was chair from 2006 to 2007. He was a member of the Publications, Continuing Education, and Interpretation committees, also serving as chair of the Continuing Education (1999–2001) and Interpretation (2007–2010) committees. He was a member of the inaugural editorial board of Interpretation in 2013. SEG has published three of his books including The Misadventures of Interpreter Sam in 2009, First Steps in Seismic Interpretation in 2011, and Interpreter Sam Carries On in 2016. His writings in TLE and books have been extremely popular, with First Steps in Seismic Interpretation selling more copies than any other SEG book in the past eight years.

The J. Clarence Karcher Award is given in recognition of significant contributions to the science and technology of exploration geophysics by a young geophysicist of outstanding abilities. Recipients must be less than 35 years of age on 1 November of the year preceding presentation of the award. This year’s recipients are Vladimir Kazei and Tao Zhao.

Kazei is a geophysicist at Aramco Americas where he has received accolades from a wide range of researchers and explorationists for his contributions to DAS, machine learning, and FWI. He has made substantial contributions to seismic inversion using artificial intelligence and machine learning methods. He was reported to be the first to successfully use deep learning for low-frequency exploration in geophysics. A few additional noted contributions include building neural networks to construct velocity models directly from data, introducing spectral scattering radiation patterns, creating a theoretical guide for anisotropic elastic FWI, and developing deep learning models to map full waveform seismic modeling-based data to velocity models. Kazei’s study of orthorhombic FWI resulted in the first radiation scattering pattern atlas. His work mapping multiple common-midpoint gathers into depth-domain vertical velocity profiles was characterized as groundbreaking. Additionally, Kazei’s work inverting DAS amplitudes using conservation of energy was pinned as a new theoretical contribution. He has chaired technical sessions, co-organized DAS workshops, co-edited DAS special section of GEOPHYSICS, served as a guest editor of TLE, is a consistent reviewer for GEOPHYSICS, and has published more than 10 journal articles (mostly in GEOPHYSICS and Interpretation) receiving more than 600 citations.

Zhao is a data science manager at SLB who demonstrates innovation and leadership in research and the development of machine learning methods in seismic, wellbore, and geologic interpretations. Zhao was uniquely noted for his contributions to the Attribute-Assisted Seismic Processing and Interpretation consortium software and for his 2015 Interpretation paper (with more than 200 citations), which describes data-driven methods to generate facies classification maps in different scenarios. Several nominators stated Zhao was instrumental in moving toward industrial adaptation to incorporate machine learning. As with many emerging professionals, Zhao has contributed beyond just oil and gas exploration to include advancements in the characterization of foundations for wind farm sites. One supporter highlighted the innovative nature of Zhao’s work and his tendency to create rather than reproduce. With more than 1000 citations, his work is recognized and considered foundational by the industry. Zhao has provided service to our profession as well with time as deputy associated editor of Interpretation and work on the technical committee for the 2022 International Meeting for Applied Geoscience & Energy.

Mahmoud Hedefa is the recipient of the 2022 Special Commendation Award, which recognizes deserving persons for meritorious service to the public, the scientific community, or to the profession. Hedefa is recognized for his many years and caliber of mentoring, teaching, and increasing SEG’s global impact. He graduated from Tanat University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in geology and is currently employed as senior geophysical consultant at Saudi Aramco with 30-plus years of diverse experience in onshore and offshore seismic data acquisition and processing. He is known for “hire to retire” career development support of geophysicists in the global geophysical community and especially for supporting SEG programs in the Middle East. He shares a patent for “Method, program product, and system for suppression of residual water bottom energy in surface seismic data” and published Shallow Drilling Hazards Predictions Using 3D Seismic Data, a guide for drilling engineers. Along with these specific accomplishments he has fostered collaboration between SEG and the Dharan Geoscience Society, which culminated in the Near-Surface Modeling Workshop that attracted a global audience. As one nominator stated, “Mahmoud has been and continues to be a true champion of SEG and the geophysical community. His energy, enthusiasm, and services with passion are supreme.”

This year’s Outstanding Educator Award recipients are Ionelia Panea and Sumit Verma. This award honors individuals for excellence in geophysics education and is awarded to those who merit such recognition, based on their educational qualities and contributions.

Panea received her PhD from the Delft University of Technology in 2007 and is currently an associate professor at the University of Bucharest, Romania. She has touched the professional lives of many students through her instruction, SEG-supported field camps, and publications. Repeated testimonials by former students attest to her dedicated instruction. She has been involved with the university’s SEG student chapter, and she teaches seismic acquisition, processing, and programming. Panea participates with the SEG Europe Regional Advisory Committee and the EVOLVE program. She has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students in their research projects.

Verma is an associate professor at the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB). He received his PhD in 2015 from the University of Oklahoma. He has taught a wide range of courses at UTPB and has participated intensely with local and regional SEG activities. He has graduated eleven graduate students and had more than 20 peer-reviewed publications. He established and is the faculty advisor for UTPB’s SEG student chapter and supervisor for the Imperial Barrel Award effort. He initiated the UTPB Geoscience Symposium, is vice president of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society, and served on the SEG Committee on University and Student Programs for six years.

This year’s Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution is awarded to Mike Forrest. This award is given to a person or organization that has made a meritorious achievement that supports the application of geophysics to a humanitarian, public service, or other socially significant cause. Forrest is recognized for his significant contribution to the SEG Foundation’s mission to advance geophysics today and inspire geoscientists for tomorrow. This is particularly applicable because of the contributions that he has generated and funds that have been raised in his name for Geoscientists without Borders. Forrest also has a passion for working with students from around the world with SEG’s EVOLVE program and has been a crucial contributor to the continuing development of EVOLVE. As one nominator states, “He is always supportive of personal and professional social contribution programs and is a shining example of the kind of geophysicists that SEG hopes to inspire in the future.”

In addition to the aforementioned awards, the Society also celebrates authors of the best papers published in 2022 issues of InterpretationThe Leading Edge, and GEOPHYSICS. These individuals have made significant and profound contributions to our science, profession, and Society. Best paper nominations are solicited from the membership at large and voted on by the respective editorial boards and presented to the SEG Board for final approval.

The full list of this year’s award recipients is:

  • Maurice Ewing Award – Kurt J. Marfurt
  • Honorary Membership – James E. Gaiser
  • Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal – Tariq Alkhalifah
  • Reginald Fessenden Award – Lasse Amundsen, Andrey Bakulin, Luc Ikelle, Subhashis Mallick, and Yanghua Wang
  • Life Membership – Rocco Detomo, Donald A. Herron
  • J. Clarence Karcher – Vladimir Kazei and Tao Zhao
  • Special Commendation – Mahmoud Hedefa
  • Outstanding Educator – Ionelia Panea, Sumit Verma
  • Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution – Mike Forrest
  • Best Paper in GEOPHYSICS in 2022 – “Development and validation of a low-cost direct current resistivity meter for humanitarian geophysics applications,” Dana Sirota, Jeffrey Shragge, Richard Krahenbuhl, Andrei Swidinsky, Nicaise Yalo, and John Bradford
  • Best Paper in The Leading Edge in 2022 – “A reality check on full-wave inversion applied to land seismic data for near-surface modeling,” Öz Yilmaz, Kai Gao, Milos Delic, Jianghai Xia, Lianjie Huang, Hossein Jodeiri, and Andre Pugin
  • Best Paper in Interpretation in 2022 – “Origin of shallow gas in the Dutch North Sea — Seismic versus geochemical evidence,” Geert de Bruin, Johan ten Veen, Martin Wilpshaar, Noortje Versteijlen, Kees Geel, Hanneke Verweij, and Stefan Carpentier

The list of SEG 2023 Honors and Awards recipients can also be found on the SEG website, and details on honorees, including their citations, will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Leading Edge.