Society of Exploration Geophysicists announces 2022 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 2022 Honors and Awards recipients. Öz Yilmaz 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.

Yilmaz has been an important and sustained contributor to our profession throughout his career. He previously received the SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal (1991) and Honorary Membership (2011). He is awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal for his deep, broad, and sustained contribution to the science and profession of geophysics. Yilmaz has advanced the profession through his work in areas such as seismic data acquisition (including large-offset recording), seismic data analysis, image-based near-surface modeling, seismic imaging, velocity estimation, and multiple attenuation. He has developed seismic data analysis workflows for near-surface modeling and time-with-depth domain subsurface modeling and imaging for difficult land data in areas with irregular topography, complex near surface, and complex subsurface. Yilmaz is also a great contributor to the advancement of the profession of applied geophysics through his writing. His first two books, Seismic Data Processing and Seismic Data Analysis, are professional standards that have affected whole generations of exploration geophysicists throughout the world. Yilmaz has devoted the last 15 years to near-surface geophysics, and his new book, Engineering Seismology, is a great contribution to the community.

Sergey Fomel and Aria Abubakar are this year’s recipients 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. Fomel served as SEG Distinguished Lecturer in 2001 and was SEG Vice President, Publications from 2017 to 2019. He received the J. Clarence Karcher award in 2001 and won the Best Paper in Interpretation Award in 2017. He developed the Madagascar and SEGTeX software packages, has graduated numerous MS and PhD students, and is a prolific writer with 172 peer-reviewed papers. He has been associate editor of GEOPHYSICS, along with numerous guest editorships for GEOPHYSICS, IEEE, and other journals.

Abubakar was the SEG North America Honorary Lecturer in 2014 and served as the AAPG-SEG Distinguished Lecturer in 2020. He has written five book chapters, published more than 90 journal articles, given more than 200 presentations, and authored 40 patents and patent applications. Much of his work has been in integrated geophysical inversion and, more recently, machine learning. He has been associate editor for GEOPHYSICS and Interpretation and is currently serving as the 2022 IMAGE Technical Program chair, a member of the SEG Advanced Modeling Corporation (SEAM) Board of Directors, and vice chair of the Research Committee.

Xianhuai Zhu 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. Zhu has significantly advanced the concepts, developments, and application of solutions to seismic imaging below complex near-surface environments. He previously received the SEG Life Membership (2018) and Reginald Fessenden (2012) awards. He is awarded the Kauffman Gold Medal for his pioneering research and applications of joint tomography using both turning-ray and reflections, which provide a viable tool for the industry to construct near-surface velocity models that are essential for accurate on-shore depth imaging in complex geologic settings.

The Reginald Fessenden Award recipients are Yike Liu and Kamini Singha. 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. Liu has contributed significantly to the theory, development, and application of seismic imaging using multiples. He introduced the new concept of decomposing multiple reflections into controlled-order multiples and a systematic way of understanding imaging artifacts due to multiples. Over the past two decades, he has made breakthroughs in several research areas. His work has been recognized by the oil and gas industry as critical to their businesses, and he has been invited by a significant number of oil and service companies to help transfer technology for imaging with multiples. He has also been invited by a large number of top exploration geophysics institutes to explain these concepts and their application.

Singha is recognized for her extensive and significant contributions of applied geophysics to hydrogeophysics, critical zone hydrology, anomalous transport, water resources management, ecohydrology, climate change, and groundwater/surface-water interaction. By documenting the occurrence and prevalence of solute mass transfer, she has been able to apply electrical methods to measure both temporal and spatial changes of fluid connectivity in heterogeneous pore systems. This allows for a significant understanding of fluid flow via solute exchange in stream systems. Her work has been further developed in hydrogeology by employing numerical analogs for integration and inversion of hydrogeologic parameters. Singha has also expanded the application of exploration geophysics to image tree water use, to quantify kinetics of iron geochemistry, and in tracer transport.

SEG awards Life Membership this year to Gustavo Carstens for his exceptional service to the Society. While at Western Geophysical, Carstens started to expand his activities with the SEG and in the region. He was a founding member of the Asociacion Argentina de Geologos y Geofisicos Petroleros (AAGGP) when it became an affiliated society of the SEG in 1994, and he served on its board of directors for 18 years. From the AAGGP, he expanded his focus to the whole of Latin America where he participated in the formation of the Union Latinoamericana de Geofisicos (ULG), which promoted interaction and intercommunication between its member societies. Carstens became a critically active member of SEG’s International Affairs Committee (later named the Global Affairs Committee). He was among the SEG leaders to truly expand SEG’s footprint beyond North America to the remainder of the world as well as diversify the Society’s membership, including the establishment of Global Membership. He has participated in many SEG committees — including Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE), Global Affairs, and Membership (chair, 2010–2011) — as well as the SEG Council (chair, 2018–2021). Carstens has been a member of the SEG Board of Directors in two separate roles — as a Director at Large and as Chair of the Council.

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 Shuvajit Bhattacharya, Mehdi Aharchaou, and Leonardo Azevedo are recognized.

Bhattacharya is a researcher at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin. Characterized as a “rising star in our profession,” Bhattacharya is an impactful applied geophysicist with complementary expertise in petrophysics, seismic attributes, and machine learning. The significance and impact of his work is broad across the interpretation community as demonstrated by his publication showing the quantitative integration of several 3D seismic attributes, petrophysics, and rock physics to identify and map sweet spots, one such publication being the most downloaded article in Interpretation in 2020. He has also contributed to our science with contributions in machine learning, carbon sequestration, and integration of 3D attributes with deep learning. With his cross-disciplinary focus and attention to scientific rigor, he has already become a sought-after reviewer at this early stage in his career. Bhattacharya’s service to the Society is noteworthy and includes service as cochair of technical sessions at Annual Meetings, multiple assignments as special issue editor for Interpretation, and deputy associate editor of Interpretation.

Aharchaou is a geophysicist with ExxonMobil who has made innovative contributions to some of the most challenging problems faced by the seismic exploration community. He has been integral to advancements in machine learning applications, broadband preprocessing of towed streamer data, prestack Q compensation using sparse tau-p operators, and adaptive deghosting, to name just a few. His deep intellectual curiosity is routinely noted by his collaborators. He has had breakthrough contributions in the extremely challenging area of AI acquisition where he targeted bandwidth extension through knowledge transfer between ocean-bottom nodes and towed streamers using machine learning-based strategies. Aharchaou’s advancements in integrated broadband preprocessing has industry-wide impact with implications for FWI using AI and machine learning.

Azevedo is an assistant professor with habilitation at the Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture, and Georesources in the Institute Tecnico, Lisboa, Portugal. He is a rarity in the applied geophysics community in that he has demonstrated a talent for integrating geostatistics into a wide range of geophysics applications. His primary focus has been geostatistical application to seismic AVO inversion and uncertainty in nonlinear geophysical problems. Azevedo has authored more than 42 peer-reviewed papers and accumulated an h-index of 14 at this early stage in his career. Not only has be contributed to energy exploration applications, but he is also engaged in hydrogeohysics research and the application of near-surface geophysics for landfill characterization and risk assessment. Azevedo has consistently been engaged with state-of-the-art research in seismic inversion to tackle uncertainty quantification challenges. He has contributed to the Society with service as an associate editor of GEOPHYSICS, and he is the faculty advisor for his university’s SEG student chapter. Azevedo has already made significant contributions to our science and has been an advocate for multidisciplinary integration and collaboration.

GeoFORCE Texas, Samir Abdelmoaty, and Ed Biegert are recipients of the 2022 Special Commendation Award, established for the purpose of recognizing and giving special commendation to deserving persons for meritorious service to the public, the scientific community, or to the profession.

GeoFORCE Texas receives the Special Commendation Award for contributions over the past decade in fostering diversity and supporting underrepresented minorities and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics during the transition from high school to college, all within the context of the geosciences.

Abdelmoaty is awarded Special Commendation for his wide range of experience and contributions in the oil and gas world and universities. He is especially well known in Egypt for his work with the Al Amal graduate-to-industry bridging program, and he has been active in SEG and other professional activities in the Middle East. He has been widely praised for his work in mentoring students and supporting colleagues across the region. He has received both SEG Life (2002) and Honorary (2009) Membership awards.

Biegert receives Special Commendation for his 40-year contribution to the field and community of nonseismic applied geophysics at Shell, SEG, and Rice University. His skills, knowledge, willingness to help others, and dedication to industry are what make him greatly appreciated by his peers and worthy of recognition. He was an associate editor for Journal of Geophysics and is a long-time member of SEG’s Gravity and Magnetics Committee, through which he has helped organize several workshops.

Zonge International is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award, given from time to time to a company, institution, or other organization for a specific technical contribution or contributions that have substantially advanced the science of exploration geophysics. Zonge’s contributions have substantially advanced the science of exploration geophysics, particularly electrical and electromagnetic (EM) geophysics across near-surface, mining, geothermal, and oil and gas markets. Zonge was originally founded as the Zonge Engineering and Research Organization (ZERO) in 1972 by Kenneth L. Zonge (SEG’s 1995 Cecil Green Enterprise Award), who developed the complex resistivity method and demonstrated its uses for mineral exploration. The company and became the first to build a microprocessor-based EM receiver system in the 1970s. The company performs hundreds of projects each year involving seismic, magnetics, gravity, and other geophysical methods, in addition to the broad variety of EM methods it helped establish. Its innovations in EM acquisition and processing systems over the years extend to every aspect of EM geophysics practiced today. Zonge’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on today as much as it did when founded 50 years ago.

This year’s Outstanding Educator Award recipient is Dario Grana. Grana is an associate professor at University of Wyoming (UW) and Wyoming Excellence Chair. He has been an associate editor of GEOPHYSICS. His work includes studies on rock physics, seismic inversion, geostatistics, and reservoir characterization. He has taught a wide range of geophysics topics at UW as well as industry courses with the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, the Brazilian Geophysical Society, Eni, and Hess Corporation. He has supervised some 10 graduate students, published about 70 peer-reviewed papers, and delivered many technical presentations. Once nominator said, “Dr. Grana’s contributions to teaching geophysics across the undergraduate and graduate levels; quality in geophysics education; commitment to advising and mentoring; and exceptional dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts make him a truly inspiring figure. His efforts have contributed not only to the advancing of geophysics within our department and on our campus but also in the broader scientific community.”

This year’s Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution is awarded to the University of Bucharest. The 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. Ionelia Panea (project lead), Cezar Iacob, Razvan Orza, Mihai Furnica, Denisa Jianu, and Victor Mocanu are the university faculty and students who carried out the Geoscientists without Borders® project at the University of Bucharest. This pollution mitigation project had a large humanitarian impact. The efforts of the students and faculty in quantifying the mining pollution in the Ampoi valley in Romania resulted in the European Union being required to build a water pipeline to provide clean water to the valley. The university participants showed exceptional dedication and creativity in recruiting local help and in overcoming many hurdles in getting this project done and following up with the results

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

  • Maurice Ewing Award – Öz Yilmaz
  • Honorary Membership – Aria Abubakar and Sergey Fomel
  • Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal – Xianhuai Zhu
  • Reginald Fessenden Award – Yike Liu and Kamini Singha
  • Life Membership – Gustavo Carstens
  • J. Clarence Karcher – Shuvajit Bhattacharya, Mehdi Aharchaou, and Leonardo Azevedo
  • Special Commendation – Samir Abdelmoaty, Ed K. Biegert, and GeoFORCE Texas
  • Distinguished Achievement Award – Zonge International
  • Outstanding Educator – Dario Grana
  • Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution – University of Bucharest
  • Best Paper in GEOPHYSICS in 2021 – “Reflection angle/azimuth-dependent least-squares reverse time migration,” Eric Duveneck, Michael Kiehn, Anu Chandran, and Thomas Kühnel
  • Best Paper in Interpretation in 2021 – “Timing of hydrocarbon entrapment in the eastern foothills of the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia,” Nelson Sánchez, Jael Pacheco, Mario Alberto Guzman-Vega, Andrés Mora, and Brian Horton
  • Best Paper in The Leading Edge in 2021 – “Characterization of a carbonate geothermal reservoir using rock-physics-guided deep neural networks,” Fabien Allo, Jean-Philippe Coulon, Jean-Luc Formento, Romain Reboul, Laure Capar, Mathieu Darnet, Benoit Issautier, Stephane Marc, and Alexandre Stopin
  • Best Oral Paper Presented at IMAGE 2021 – “Impact of joint PP/PS inversion on shear-impedance estimation for exploration and production,” Ali Tura, James Simmons, Matthew Copley, Sima Daneshvar, Andrea Damasceno, and Joseph Stitt
  • Best Poster Paper Presented at IMAGE 2021 – “A 108 km2 compressive sensing processing trial,” Dustin Blymyer, Klaas Koster, and Graeme Warren
  • Best Student Oral Paper Presented at IMAGE 2021 – “Machine learning inversion of geophysical data by a conditional variational autoencoder,” W. Anderson McAliley
  • Best Student Poster Paper Presented at IMAGE 2021 – “Unsupervised boundary analysis of potential field data: A machine learning method,” Carmine Cutaneo

The list of SEG 2022 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.