Research

From the Core to the Cosmos

Computational Geosciences

Modeling and simulation offer tremendous opportunities for improving our understanding of the Earth system, addressing geoscience grand challenges, and providing decision-support tools for geoscience policy-makers and industry. The emergence of computation as a powerful tool for prediction and decision-making in the geosciences is driven by advances in three areas: the rapid expansion of our ability to instrument and observe the Earth; sustained improvements in computational models and solution methods for complex geoscience systems; and the relentless growth in computing power.


Computational geoscience is characterized by large-scale nonlinear models that couple multiple physical, chemical, and biological processes over a wide range of length and time scales. The solution of the complex interdisciplinary problems requires advanced numerical algorithms running on high performance computers. To tackle these challenges researchers at the JSG collaborate with the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

The Computational Geoscience discipline is the focal point of computational and modeling activities at the Jackson School of Geosciences and serves to:

  • Bring together computational researchers from across the three units of the Jackson School and across all research themes
  • Foster a culture of large-scale modeling and simulation within JSG
  • Energize research at the interfaces of modeling and data, and lead to wider application of inverse methods.
  • Develop a unique curriculum to educate a new generation of geoscientists well-versed in computation and ready to become leaders in their field.

Climate Modeling

Jackson School climate modeling activities include integration with comprehensive global and regional climate system models developed at NCAR and contributions of process components to these models. The research threads have emphasized fundamentals of climate dynamics, assimilation, and prediction, climate over land and land processes, especially those involving canopy radiation and those coupled to the hydrological cycle. The latter include snow, frozen ground, water tables, runoff and vector based river routing. Mechanism and processes for floods and drought are of especial current interest.

Geodynamic Modeling

Mantle convection drives plate tectonics and continental drift and, in turn, controls the occurrence of earthquakes and volcanoes, mountain building, and long-term sea level change. The major challenges in modeling global mantle convection lie in resolving the wide range of space and time scales and the orders of magnitude variation in material properties. Computational geodynamics research in the Jackson School is aimed at creating advanced mathematical and computational models of mantle convection processes that overcome the above challenges through advanced discretizations, adaptive mesh refinement, and scalable parallel solvers that run on state-of-the-art supercomputers. A new thrust is to develop inverse methods that assimilate observational data into mantle flow models.

Modeling flows in porous media

Porous media are ubiquitous throughout the geosciences and the computational modeling of porous media flows is a common interest across all three units of the Jackson School. Activities range from complex large-scale simulations of specific field sites to nanoscale transport models of fundamental geological and environmental processes. Topics include the dynamics of marine methane hydrates, fluid flow in nanopores of shale strata, reactive transport during diagenesis, partial melting and melt migration in the earth’s mantle. Researchers optimize the design of enhanced oil and gas recovery and geological CO2 storage projects or the sustainable management of water resources.

Inverse modeling

One of the central challenges in computational geosciences is the systematic assimilation of observational data into large-scale simulations to address and characterize model parameters and their associated uncertainties. This is necessary to account for measurement error, the scale-dependency of those measurements, and ambiguity in relating physical earth properties to the observations. The Jackson School has been a leader in the development of inverse methods for data assimilation and their application to such areas as seismology, thermal history and climate modeling.

Geophysics

Research in theoretical and computational geophysics includes: the solutions to inverse problems to estimate complex multi-parameter earth models from large data sets; development of numerical methods to simulate wave propagation and deformation in complex materials via finite element and finite difference methods; inference from and analysis of complex systems, such as Earth’s climate variations; and development of algorithms using parallel processing architectures. Researchers relate geophysical datasets to physical properties at scales including whole-earth structure, plate tectonics, sedimentary basins, fluid reservoirs, and pore scales.

Lithospheric deformation modeling

One of the most important problems plate tectonics is to develop a model for solid deformation of the lithosphere with localization over narrow shear zones in the rigid crust and mantle, as well as viscoplastic flow in the ductile lithosphere. To validate such models, numerical simulations of lithospheric deformation must often carry on over the tens of millions years. Therefore, a realistic description and understanding of natural processes requires both the development of a mathematical model and its accurate and fast numerical solution to identify the corresponding parameter regimes. The Jackson School has been a leader for many years in integrating new numerical techniques in computational mechanics and recent geophysical constraints. This effort has allowed for the development of new geological concepts for rifting, mountain building and subduction deriving from forward models of lithospheric deformation.

3D data analysis

Full exploitation of volumetric data sets acquired by X-ray computed tomography (CT) on rocks, fossils, meteorites, and other materials to answer geologic questions requires development of innovative and specialized analysis techniques and methodologies. The Jackson School has been a leader in creating these capabilities to exploit the unique data being generated at its world-leading CT facility. Applications include measuring size, shape and spatial and contact relationships of minerals, clasts and vesicles; measuring the density and anisotropy of trabecular bone fabrics in vertebrate fossils; imaging pore networks and fluid displacement within them; and quantifying fracture roughness and aperture variation and their effect on fluid flow.

Faculty & Research Scientists

Thorsten  BeckerThorsten Becker
mantle dynamics; fault system dynamics; structural seismology; numerical modeling
M Bayani CardenasM Bayani Cardenas
Hydrology and Hydrogeology
Kerry H CookKerry H Cook
Climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, global climate change, paleoclimate, climate and weather of Africa and South America, climate system modeling, climate change in Texas
Jacob A CovaultJacob A Covault
sedimentology, stratigraphy, marine geology
Sergey FomelSergey Fomel
Computational and exploration geophysics; seismic imaging; wave propagation; seismic data analysis; inverse problems; geophysical estimation
Omar  GhattasOmar Ghattas
Computational geoscience and engineering, simulation and optimization of complex solid, fluid, and biomechanical systems, inverse problems, optimal design, and optimal control
Patrick  HeimbachPatrick Heimbach
Heimbach's research group (Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems -- CRIOS) in ICES is engaged in a number of projects, with main funding from NASA, NSF, DOE, and DARPA. [bold](1)[/bold] Our overarching research focusses on understanding the global ocean circulation, its role in climate variability and change, and its predictability on seasonal to decadal time scales. As part of the NASA-funded "Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean" (ECCO) consortium involving colleagues ...
Marc A HesseMarc A Hesse
Multiphase flow in porous media, geomechanics, numerical simulation, mathematical, modeling, reactive transport, magma dynamics.
Seyyed Abolfazl HosseiniSeyyed Abolfazl Hosseini
Research interests are mainly topics related to fluid transport in porous media. Current research includes: Enhanced Oil Recovery - Enhanced Gas Recovery - Upscaling and Upgridding - Above Zone Monitoring Interval - Reservoir Simulation and History Matching - Unconventional Reservoirs
Charles S JacksonCharles S Jackson
global warming, abrupt climate change, sea level rise, ocean mixing, Bayesian Inference, inverse modeling, simulation, climate projections, uncertainty quantification
Farzam  JavadpourFarzam Javadpour
Dispersion phenomena in porous systems (hydrocarbon reservoirs and brine aquifers); shale gas; CO2 injection up-scaling; EOR, EGR, and sequestration; nonotechnology in rock characterization.
Richard A KetchamRichard A Ketcham
High-resolution X-ray computed tomography, CT scanning, 3D image analysis, fission-track dating, thermochronology, structural geology, tectonics, digital morphology, trabecular bone
Toti E LarsonToti E Larson
Luc L LavierLuc L Lavier
Tectonics; the structural and geodynamical evolution of continental and oceanic rifts, as well as collisional environments; numerical techniques to model tectonic processes on crustal and lithospheric scales; deformation; subduction
Maria-Aikaterini  NikolinakouMaria-Aikaterini Nikolinakou
Maria-Katerina Nikolinakou is currently a Research Scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on understanding stress and pore pressure in complex geologic systems, including salt systems and thrust belts. She studies the behavior of geologic materials under high stress levels and complex stress paths. She develops applied workflows for pressure prediction in exploration settings. Maria is a Civil/Geotechnical Engineer. She ...
Timothy B RoweTimothy B Rowe
Vertebrate paleontology, evolution and development of the vertebrate skeleton, phylogenetic systematics, the early history of mammals and their extinct relatives among Synapsida, the history of birds and their extinct relatives among Dinosauria, the history of other amniotes, high-resolution X-ray computed tomography, CT scanner, DigiMorph, informatics
Mrinal K SenMrinal K Sen
Seismic wave propagation including anisotropy, geophysical inverse problems, earthquakes and earth structure, applied seismology, petroleum exploration including 4D seismology
Krista M SoderlundKrista M Soderlund
Astrobiology, Cryosphere, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Planetary Science
Kyle T SpikesKyle T Spikes
Exploration Geophysics, in particular rock physics applications and seismic inversion techniques for reservoir characterization.
Alex  SunAlex Sun
Subjects: Carbon sequestration, hydrological modeling, computational geoscience, fracture/fault modeling Skill sets: Geostatistical modeling, inversion and optimization algorithms, numerical modeling, web-based decision support systems Programming: Matlab, Python, Fortran, C, ArcGIS
Kehua  YouKehua You
Methane Hydrate, Hydrogeology, Flow and Transport in Porous Media, Analytical and Numerical Modeling
Tongwei  ZhangTongwei Zhang
Gas geochemistry and isotope geochemistry; Petroleum and gas generation kinetics and basin modeling; Fluid transport processes in basins and reservoirs; Organic-inorganic interactions; Unconventional gas reservoir characterization; CO2 sequestration and H2S risk prediction.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Lukas  FuchsLukas Fuchs
Plate Tectonics, Numerical Models, Diapirs, Finite Deformation, Anisotropie
Feras A Habbal
Mahdi  HaddadMahdi Haddad
geomechanics of induced seismicity; geomechanical simulation of multiple-stage hydraulic fracture propagation using cohesive zone model and extended finite element method; numerical simulation of multiphase flow in porous media; development of computational fluid dynamics codes using finite volume, finite element (classic and Streamline Upwind Petrov-Galerkin), and smoothed particle hydrodynamics methods.
Mahdi  Heidari MoghadamMahdi Heidari Moghadam
Mahdi Heidari Moghadam is a Research Associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin (UT). He works for the AGL and GeoFluids consortia. Mahdi is a Civil/Geotechnical Engineer. He received his PhD on Tunneling in Difficult Ground Conditions from UT in 2013. He holds a M.Sc. in Structural Engineering from SUT, Iran, and a M.Sc. in Earthquake Engineering from University of Tehran, Iran. His ...
Piyoosh  JaysavalPiyoosh Jaysaval
(1) Large-scale Geophysical Modeling (2) Inversion/Optimization (3) Controlled-Source Electromagnetic (4) Full Waveform Inversion (5) Seismic Imaging (6) Potential Field Methods (7) Direct and Iterative Solvers
Christopher Landry
Drew MuscenteDrew Muscente
In general, I have expertise in paleontology/paleobiology, geobiology, sedimentary geology, evolution, and ecology. My main areas of interest are community paleoecology, taphonomy, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. [italic]Please visit my website for more information on my research[/italic]: [link:https://admuscente.com/][bold]www.admuscente.com[/bold][/link]
Matthew B WellerMatthew B Weller
geodynamics, heat transfer, numerical analysis, fault systems, planetary evolution
Xinming  WuXinming Wu
Details on [link:http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/wu/research/][bold]My research homepage[/bold][/link]

Adjunct/Emeritus Faculty​ & Research Scientists

Robert E DickinsonRobert E Dickinson
Climate, Global Warming, Land Surface Processes, Remote Sensing, Hydrological Cycle, Carbon Cycle, and Modeling.
Rong  FuRong Fu
Convection, cloud and precipitation processes and their role in climate; Atmospheric transport in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere; Atmosphere, ocean and land/vegetation interactions; Satellite remote sensing applications and retrievals;

Research Staff

David EdeyDavid Edey
Thomas Hess
Geoscience software, anisotropic imaging, seismic processing, seismic geometry, deconvolution, problem solving.
Jay P KipperJay P Kipper
Personnel management, fiscal reporting, budget management, contract negotiation, management of geological samples
Karl L Schleicher

Graduate Students

Reetam Biswas
Luke A Decker
Adviser: Dr. Sergey Fomel Research Interest: Seismic Diffraction Imaging Member of Texas Consortium for Computational Seismilogy
Scott A EckleyScott A Eckley
I am interested in the evolution of the terrestrial bodies, specifically the Earth, Moon, Mars, and Vesta.
Eric J Goldfarb
In August, 2016, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Austin. While far from home, it is hard to think of a better place to do research. I like learning why the world looks the way it does, both natural and manmade. Geology has been there for me to explain the natural world, and engineering and applied science has been there for the constructed. The rock deformation lab here is a great mix of these two disciplines ...
Emily C PeaseEmily C Pease
Emily is a first year Masters student in Energy and Earth Resources working with supervisor Suzanne Pierce. Her research interests include bridging disciplines between data science, hydrogeology, and GIS/remote sensing to address pressing water issues in Texas. Additionally, Emily has been with the USGS Texas Water Science Center as a hydrologist for two years, working on groundwater modeling, GIS, and Python programming for the Geospatial Sciences and Cyber Innovation Branch.
Son D PhanSon D Phan
Seismic quantitative methods for reservoir characterizations: inversion, wave propagation, rock physics modeling, anisotropy, uncertainty analysis
Simone Puel
Evan J RamosEvan J Ramos
I am a second-year PhD student whose research focuses on the thermodynamics of high-temperature and low-temperature fluid-rock interactions, the geochemical records associated with these processes, and the refinement of earth systems models of geochemical cycling between the solid Earth, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. My Master's thesis incorporated various techniques including numerical modeling, stable isotope geochemistry, and geochronology to characterize fluid flow during the formation of skarns. The overarching goal of this research was to quantify ...
Colin SchroederColin Schroeder
My research focuses on numerically simulating wireline and while-drilling formation-tester measurements acquired in the presence of mud-filtrate invasion.
Yunzhi  ShiYunzhi Shi
John M SwartzJohn M Swartz
Research interests: Sedimentology/stratigraphy, coastal and nearshore processes, quantitative geomorphology, marine geophysics, statistical methods in geoscience
David Tang
Xinyue  TongXinyue Tong
I use develop numerical experiments of subduction to investigate how slip and long-term deformation accumulate and interact at subduction zones during earthquake cycle. Including, 1. Explore the relationships between long-term strain accumulation and the seismic cycle. 2. Explore mechanisms that could explain how strain accumulation is modified in space and time by the presence of large asperities at the subduction interface.
Janaki  VamarajuJanaki Vamaraju
Inverse theory , Wave Propagation , High performance Computing , Fracture Characterization, Applied Machine Learning
Graduate and undergraduate research in geologic sequestration of CO2 (Graduate or Undergraduate)
Gulf Coast Carbon Center supports a team of students and post docs working in geologic sequestration (deep subsurface long-duration storage) of the major greenhouse gas CO2, as a method to reduce release to the atmosphere. Student projects are wide ranging, from sedimentology to policy, linked in that they are 1) multidisciplinary and 2) applied to current issues. Students are typically jointly supervised by faculty in geology or petroleum geosystems engineering and staff at the GCCC. A class in geologic sequestration is offered in the fall some years.
Posted by: Susan Hovorka

Graduate research opportunities in computational seismology (Graduate)
Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology is looking for Ph.D. students interested in computational research. Our group works on a broad range of topics in exploration geophysics, from wave-equation seismic imaging and inversion to computational algorithms for seismic data processing and seismic interpretation. The work is supported by industrial sponsors. We use open-source software tools and high-performace computing resources.
Posted by: Sergey Fomel

Postdoctoral Fellowship Position (Graduate)
March 27, 2018 Postdoctoral Fellowship Position The Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin currently has long-term, funded projects on the environmental implications of CO2 sequestration. We are currently recruiting recent Ph.D. scientists or engineers for a postdoctoral fellowship position. Position: Numerical and Analytical Modeling of Fluid Flow in Porous Media Related to CO2 Injection General topics of research is related to reservoir fluid flow modeling and simulations in CO2-EOR/Sequestrations settings with various focuses including history matching, optimization algorithms, regional geomechanics and economics related to oil and gas production. We are interested in outstanding fellowship applicants with direct experience in reservoir simulation using commercial packages specially CMG package (all modules). Experience in running simulations in parallel environment is a plus. Candidates must have interest in theoretical analyses and mathematical modeling of fluid flow problems. Strong and deep understanding of fundamentals of reservoir engineering and coding skills in Matlab, Python or other relevant programing languages are required. We anticipate that the successful candidate will have formal training in petroleum engineering or related fields. Successful candidate will be part of Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC), an interdisciplinary team of research geologists and engineers who conduct CO2-sequestration research at the Bureau of Economic Geology. GCCC is one of the world’s leading research groups in CO2 sequestration. Our Frio brine injection experiment was the first to monitor CO2 injection into brine, and we are currently involved in several large scale CO2 injection monitoring projects in the U.S. GCCC collaborates closely with faculty in departments across the UT-Austin campus, other universities, and U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories. This position will be based in North Austin, at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, The University of Texas at Austin. Austin is often on the list of top 10 places to live in the U.S. Please send a resume and a short expression of interest to: Dr. Seyyed Abolfazl Hosseini Email at: seyyed.hosseini@beg.utexas.edu The University of Texas at Austin is an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action employer. All positions are security sensitive, and conviction verification is conducted on applicants selected.
Posted by: Seyyed Hosseini

Geophysics SoftwareGeophysics Software
Landmark and Geoquest software is used for processing and interpreting 3 dimensional seismic data.
High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography FacilityHigh-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility
Provides high resolution non-destructive, density maps of solid samples (rocks, fossils, etc) up to a maximum size of 50 cm diameter by 150 cm high (50 kg mass). Equipment: An industrial CT scanner that is an adaptation of medical CAT scanners.
Center for Computational Geosciences & Optimization
The Center for Computational Geosciences and Optimization addresses modeling of the solid and fluid earth systems, with emphasis on large scale simulation and inversion on supercomputers. Problems of interest include forward and inverse modeling of regional and global seismic wave propagation, mantle convection, atmospheric and subsurface contaminant transport, ocean dynamics, and flow in porous media. Research in the CCGO is conducted jointly with collaborators from the Jackson School of Geosciences, other ICES centers, the College of Engineering, the Department of Computer Sciences, other universities including Carnegie Mellon, Penn, MIT, Columbia, and Emory, and Sandia National Labs. Related inverse and optimization problems in the mechanical and biomedical engineering sciences are also being pursued.
High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility
The High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCT) is a national shared multi-user facility supported by the Instrumentation and Facilities Program of NSF's Earth Sciences (EAR) directorate. UTCT offers scientific researchers across the earth, biological and engineering sciences access to a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3D geometries and properties.
Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation
The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) is a national, networked, simulation resource that includes geographically-distributed, shared-use, next-generation experimental research Equipment Sites built and operated to advance earthquake engineering research and education through collaborative and integrated experimentation, theory, data archiving, and model-based simulation. The goal of NEES is to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering research and to improve the seismic design and performance of civil and mechanical infrastructure systems through the integration of people, ideas, and tools in a collaboratory environment. Open access to and use of NEES research facilities and data by all elements of the earthquake engineering community, including researchers, educators, students, practitioners, and information technology experts, is a key element of this goal.
Quantitative Clastics Laboratory
The Quantitative Clastics Laboratory (QCL) carries out geologic studies of the processes, tectonics, and quantitative morphology of basins around the world, with research that emphasizes the use of mega-merged 3D seismic data sets for quantitative seismic geomorphologic study of the basin fill, evaluation of source-to-sink relationships between the shelf, slope and deep basin and analyses of the influence of tectonics and fluids on the evolution of these complex continental margin settings.
Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology
The mission of the Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology is to address the most important and challenging research problems in computational geophysics as experienced by the energy industry while educating the next generation of research geophysicists and computational scientists.

Affiliated UT Programs & Centers

Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security
CFSES is one of only two centers out of 46 EFRCs with focus on subsurface energy. Our goal is a scientific understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological subsurface processes from the very small scale to the very large scale so that we can predict the behavior of CO2 and other byproducts of the energy production that may need to be stored in the subsurface. At this aim, we need to integrate and expand our knowledge of subsurface phenomena across scientific disciplines using both experimental and modeling methodologies to better understand and quantify the behavior at conditions far from equilibrium. The unique aspect of our research is the approach of the uncertainty and of the complexity of the fluids in the geologic media from the molecular scale to the basin scale and their integration in computational tools to better predict the long term behavior of subsurface energy byproduct storage.
Texas Advanced Computing Center
The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the leading centers of computational excellence in the United States. Located on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, the center's mission is to enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies.
Posted by Xinming Wu
Automatic interpretation of all horizons from a 3D seismic image Posted by Xinming Wu
Automatically building 3D subsurface models that conform to well-log measurements, seismic structures, and seismic stratigraphic features. Posted by Xinming Wu
Simultaneously tie multiple wells to real seismic traces