The city of Houston is the recognized center of the petroleum industry universe. The petroleum industry seeks greater effectiveness in extracting useful reliable subsurface information from returning seismic signals. The problem is a complicated inverse scattering problem with serious conceptual and practical hurdles. Propagation of the generated downgoing and reflected upgoing signal through an unknown highly heterogeneous medium is a serious obstacle to effectiveness.
The development of new capability to address these challenges, requires knowledge of several iplines, physics, geosciences and mathematics among them. Physics is a unique and most sought after ingredient in the mix, because it trains and produces a capability to formulate and address real world problems and to find effective solutions, as measured against experiment. In seismic the experiment is the exploration drill into the earth, a wonderful high bar of effectiveness with tremendous exciting economic and national security and energy consequences.
A new interiplinary program at UH, the Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program, is centered in the physics department. It defines and addresses seismic problems whose solution would have the biggest positive step on our ability to locate and produce hydrocarbons. 16 of the largest oil and service companies world-wide are sponsors, and we currently have 12 PhD candidates two VAP/RAP and one post-doctoral fellow. The program has 7 adjunct professors, world-class industry experts working with our students in the program. Summer internships and industry employment opportunities are facilitated by this UH industry collaborative activity. The key is to understand and serve the aligned interests of fundamental prioritized directed science and the petroleum industry, and to recognize that ultimately both are best served by the highest standard and central educational mission of the university.