2009 Karcher Awards Recognize UH Research

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October 27, 2009-Houston-
Pioneering seismic research at the University of Houston that could improve seismic exploration effectiveness worldwide, including in the Gulf of Mexico, has earned two young scientists one of the most prized international awards in Exploration Geophysics.

Every year, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists names up to three recipients of the J. Clarence Karcher Award. This is an honor and recognition given to individuals under the age of 35 who have made major contributions to the field of exploration geophysics and represent the promise of future significant contributions.

This year both of the winners - Haiyan Zhang and Bogdan Nita - are recognized for the research they carried out within the Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program (M-OSRP)/physics department at UH. To his best awareness this is the first time one university, let alone one program, has swept both the Karcher awards, in one year, said Arthur Weglein, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor in Physics and director of M-OSRP.

The awards will be presented Oct. 25 in Houston during the society's annual conference.

 "A defining characteristic of a top tier university research program is high impact, game-changing fundamental research, and receiving this kind of international recognition for our graduate students and young faculty is an indication of their research quality and impact," Weglein said.

M-OSRP is a research group comprised of UH faculty, researchers and graduate students focused on fundamental advances in seismic processing and imaging that will give energy explorers an additional set of tools, in their seismic toolbox, increasing their options and over-all toolbox capability. The goal is to more accurately locate and resolve pictures of what lies deep beneath the Earth's surface and help recover hard-to-find oil and gas deposits.

Nita was a post-doctoral researcher and research assistant professor of physics with M-OSRP and Zhang was a Ph.D. student in physics at UH when they conducted the research that earned them the Karcher Award. Zhang is a member of the research department at ConocoPhillips and Nita is a math professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. 

Weglein's students have received six Karcher awards, and four of those were awarded since he arrived at UH in 2001.

The awards are prestigious and prized in the petroleum exploration field - companies and universities often tout their number of Karcher winners on their staffs and faculty.

Both Zhang and Nita were involved M-OSRP's long-term project to improve seismic imaging methods, e.g.,  to peer beneath the salt in the Gulf of Mexico. Nita focused on removing "bounces" or multiples from seismic waves while Zhang's work gave researchers a better picture of a seismic imaging target's rock and fluid properties.

Nita and Zhang will be recognized at the Society's Honors and Awards Ceremony at 4 p.m., Oct. 25, which kicks off the SEG's weeklong conference and convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.