The Society of Exploration Geophysicists announces 2021 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 2021 Honors and Awards recipients. Rosemary Knight 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.

Knight, previously awarded SEG Life Membership (2009) and the Outstanding Educator Award (2017), pushed the envelope on the use of near-surface geophysics to solve environmental problems. She is perhaps best known for her contributions in two areas: rock physics on partially saturated samples and, more recently, developing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) as a reliable groundwater characterization method. With respect to NMR, Knight has been a pioneer in defining this field and developing imaginative applications of the technique. Following the outlook mirrored in her other fields of research, her approach to training students in NMR has emphasized addressing the most fundamental aspects of the NMR response. In addition to the immediate impacts of her discoveries in NMR, her focus on fundamentals has built a robust foundation that has allowed others in the hydrogeophysical community to further advance this methodology.

Arthur Cheng is this year’s recipient of the Honorary Membership Award, 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. Cheng has contributed significantly to technical advancement of geophysics through his work in both industry and academia. He has had a major influence on the advancement of the profession—both inside and outside of SEG—through his work with and support of students as well as various volunteer positions with SEG.

Joe Dellinger 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. Dellinger is awarded this honor for his body of work in advancing the science of exploration geophysics, especially in the preceding five years. In particular, he has made significant contributions in developing the most effective methodology for seismic imaging with low and super low frequencies. He provided insights and ability to find practical ways of acquiring, processing, and interpreting the volumes of data acquired by seismic systems. These comprise both active and passive applications which were instrumental in demonstrating new and emerging technologies— the breakthroughs in Full Waveform Inversion (FWI) and the practical implementation of passive interferometry technology to image anomalies and stress-induced effects using ambient noise.

The Reginald Fessenden Award recipients are Chengbo Li, Boris Gurevich, and Estella Atekwana. 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.

Li’s specific technical contribution is his pioneering work with Dr. Charles Mosher at ConocoPhillips (COP) on the industry-leading compressive seismic imaging (CSI) technology applied to seismic data acquisition and processing. Compressive sensing is a breakthrough in sampling theory and application that has direct application on the most expensive activities of applied geophysics. Li is noted for his six patents regarding CSI and his multiple peer-reviewed papers describing the theory, development, and application of the technology. He has continued to improve the algorithms based on the learnings from each new application and recognized the opportunity to broaden the utilization of the CSI concepts to solve additional complex problems such as noise attenuation and imaging.

Gurevich is recognized for his specific technical contributions to rock physics, in particular to the theory of seismic attenuation and dispersion in fluid saturated porous rocks. This subject is of major importance in applied geophysics because attenuation and dispersion significantly influence seismic amplitudes and waveforms. This understanding of wave propagation in attenuative media is vital to the characterization of rocks and fluids from seismic data.

Atekwana is the key originator of an exciting new field of geophysics research in the earth sciences, known as “Biogeophysics.” She has opened a new field of laboratory-based studies to better understand acoustic, magnetic, and electrical property changes due to microbial growth and biofilm formation in porous media. She has conducted numerous studies of multiple bio-alterations and their geophysical signature resulting in a new understanding of predictions from applied geophysical techniques.

SEG awards Life Membership this year to Reinaldo Michelena for his exceptional service to the Society in many capacities since 1994. Most notably has been his work in publications. Michelena served on The Leading Edge Editorial Board (2008-2011), where he was chair during 2011. He currently serves on the Translations Committee where he has put in a significant amount of effort including service as Chair from 2016 – 2018 when he led a group of over 100 volunteers in pursuit of the Spanish translation of the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Geophysics by Robert Sheriff, which was recently completed. He has served on many other committees and has co-organized multiple SEG workshops.

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. A maximum of three awards can be given each year. This year’s recipients are Niels Grobbe, Xukai Shen, and Jiajia Sun.

Grobbe is recognized as a leader in the field of seismo-electromagnetics and seismic interferometry. He has been credited with single handedly re-energizing the seismo-electric community and developing an innovative and insightful roadmap into the future for this discipline. Grobbe has been called a master at combining theory and experiment in his research. Even at this early stage in his career he is considered an expert in all things interferometric with the potential to be the academic leader in this field.

Shen was credited in 2016 with developing an approach to FWI that integrated the use of sparse nodal acquisition at wide offsets to revolutionize imaging under salt. Shen’s contribution is credited with being instrumental in the discovery of the Atlantis field. His development of this FWI approach is an example of how advancing our science will help find more energy, a concrete example of why geophysics matters now more than ever in exploration.

Sun is a recognized expert in joint inversion of multiple geophysical data sets. He developed a new inversion routine that combined the classical regularized inversion formalism with the fuzzy clustering allowing a-priori statistical petrophysical data to be incorporated into geophysical inversions. Sun’s joint inversion method has been called powerful and innovative, resulting in the ability to invert for the full magnetic vector rather than the traditional susceptibility. His work in unsupervised machine learning in geophysical inversion began in 2011, well out in front of the curve and others in this area of research, where even today Sun’s work combining unsupervised machine learning with 3D geophysical inversion is at the very cutting edge of technology.

Isaac Crumbly and Yang Liu are recipients of the 2021 Special Commendation Award, established for the purpose of recognizing and giving special commendation by the SEG to deserving persons for meritorious service to the public, the scientific community, or to the profession. Crumbly is recognized for his actions in increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry through Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP). Liu receives this award for his dedication to student activities, geophysical competitions, and service to SEG.

This year’s Outstanding Educator Award recipients are Deyan Draganov and Kelly Hong Liu. Draganov, Associate Professor of Geophysics at Delft University of Technology, has delivered consistent service and learnings to the SEG, many students, and professionals. He has been an associate and assistant editor of GEOPHYSICS, chaired the SEG Continuing Education Committee, and received the J. Clarence Karcher Award (2010). Liu is a Professor in Geology and Geophysics at Missouri University of Science and Technology (MUST). She is currently an SEG member and advisor to the local SEG Student Chapter. She is an Associate editor with the Journal of Geophysical Research. She has won seven teaching awards at MUST and is regarded as an excellent researcher and professor.

This year’s Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution is awarded to Tanvi Arora. 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. Arora is an assistant professor at the Academy of Physical Sciences, AcSIR, and a scientist at the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, India. Arora has provided innovative solutions using geophysical mapping techniques in two areas of great societal impact: water supply and an increasingly challenging arena of modern society—mapping environmental aspects of waste and landfill sites using Electrical Resistivity Tomography applications. She is also successful in communicating results to policymakers to affect fundamental change in behaviors and policy. These applications of geoscience have improved the quality-of-life of large parts of the population in her native India.

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

  • Maurice Ewing Award – Rosemary Knight
  • Honorary Membership – Arthur C. H. Cheng
  • Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal – Joe Dellinger
  • Reginald Fessenden Award – Chengbo Li, Boris Gurevich, Estella Atekwana
  • Life Membership – Reinaldo Michelena
  • J. Clarence Karcher – Niels Grobbe, Xukai Shen, Jiajia Sun
  • Special Commendation – Isaac J. Crumbly, Yang Liu
  • Outstanding Educator – Deyan Draganov, Kelly Hong Liu
  • Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution – Tanvi Arora
  • Best Paper in GEOPHYSICS in 2020 – “Estimation of in situ hydrocarbon saturation of porous rocks from borehole measurements of spontaneous potential,” Joshua Bautista-Anguiano and Carlos Torres-Verdín
  • Best Paper in The Leading Edge in 2020 – “SaltNet: A production-scale deep learning pipeline for automated salt model building,” Satyakee Sen, Sribharath Kainkaryam, Cen Ong, and Arvind Sharma
  • Best Paper in Interpretation in 2020 – “Subsurface basement, structure, stratigraphy, and timing of regional tectonic events affecting the Guajira margin of northern Colombia,” Eleine Vence and Paul Mann
  • Best Paper Presented at the 2020 SEG Annual Meeting – “A logical error in Gassmann poroelasticity,” Leon Thomsen
  • Best Poster Paper Presented at the 2020 SEG Annual Meeting – “A workflow of separating and imaging diffraction wave by using deep learning network: An application of GPR data,” Ming Ma, Rui Zhang, and Jonathan Ajo-Franklin
  • Best Student Paper Presented at the 2020 SEG Annual Meeting – “Event detection using a fast matched filter algorithm — An efficient way to deal with big microseismic data sets,” Hanh Bui, University of Alberta
  • Best Student Poster Paper Presented at the 2020 SEG Annual Meeting – “Wasserstein cycle-consistent generative adversarial network for improved seismic impedance inversion: Example on 3D SEAM model,” Ao Cai

The list of SEG 2021 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.