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.


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.


Thorsten  Becker

Thorsten Becker

mantle convection; plate tectonics; structural seismology; numerical modeling; earthquakes; fluid dynamics
M Bayani Cardenas

M Bayani Cardenas

Hydrology and Hydrogeology
Kerry H Cook

Kerry 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
Sergey Fomel

Sergey Fomel

Computational and exploration geophysics; seismic imaging; wave propagation; seismic data analysis; inverse problems; geophysical estimation
Patrick  Heimbach

Patrick Heimbach

Heimbach's research group (Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems -- (CRIOS)), in the Oden Institute is engaged in a number of projects, with main funding from NASA, NSF, and ONR. (1)
Marc A Hesse

Marc A Hesse

Multiphase flow in porous media, geomechanics, numerical simulation, mathematical, modeling, reactive transport, magma dynamics.
Luc L Lavier

Luc 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
Dev  Niyogi

Dev Niyogi

Research Group: The University of Texas Extreme weather and Urban Sustainability "TExUS" Lab. Research seeks to significantly contribute to our understanding of the Earth system, particularly the urban and agricultural landscapes, and the dynamic role of coupled land surface processes on regional hydroclimatic extremes. Translate the scientific work undertaken into ...
Timothy B Rowe

Timothy 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 Sen

Mrinal K Sen

Seismic wave propagation including anisotropy, geophysical inverse problems, earthquakes and earth structure, applied seismology, petroleum exploration including 4D seismology
Kyle T Spikes

Kyle T Spikes

Exploration Geophysics, in particular rock physics applications and seismic inversion techniques for reservoir characterization.
Zong-Liang  Yang

Zong-Liang Yang

Dr. Yang's primary research interest is to understand the exchanges of momentum, radiation, heat, water, carbon dioxide, and other materials between the atmosphere and the Earth surface spanning from small (short) to very large (long) scales. This includes analysis of in-situ and remotely-sensed data for the Earth's surface, and modeling ...

Affiliated Faculty

Michael  Pyrcz

Michael Pyrcz

geological modeling, geostatistics, spatial statistics, data analytics, machine learning


Robert E Dickinson

Robert E Dickinson

Climate, Global Warming, Land Surface Processes, Remote Sensing, Hydrological Cycle, Carbon Cycle, and Modeling.

Research Scientists

Shuvajit Bhattacharya

Petrophysics, Formation Evaluation, Quantitative Seismic Interpretation, Machine Learning, Integrated Subsurface Characterization, Carbon Sequestration
Mahdi  Heidari moghadam

Mahdi 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 ...
Seyyed Abolfazl Hosseini

Seyyed 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
Maria-Aikaterini  Nikolinakou

Maria-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 accretionary prisms. She studies the behavior of geologic materials ...
Krista M Soderlund

Krista M Soderlund

Astrobiology, Cryosphere, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Planetary Science
Alex  Sun

Alex 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
Timothy L Whiteaker

Timothy L Whiteaker

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in water resources engineering; hydrologic, hydraulic, and water quality modeling; scientific information management; bringing water resources engineering solutions to end users by developing Web and desktop applications.
Kehua  You

Kehua You

Methane Hydrate, Hydrogeology, Flow and Transport in Porous Media, Analytical and Numerical Modeling
Tongwei  Zhang

Tongwei 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.

Research Staff

Mohsen Ahmadian

Program Manager for the Advanced Energy Consortium Managing multidisciplinary nanosensor, miniaturized electronics, and smart materials research for the assessment of subsurface properties in various applications, including energy exploration, geothermal, CCUS, etc.
Robin D Dommisse

Robin D Dommisse

3D geological interpretation and modeling - Integrated reservoir characterization - Petroleum Geology - Petroleum Engineering - Carbonate sequence stratigraphy - Conventional and unconventional reservoir exploration and development - Oil field exploration and production reservoir management - Petrophysics - Geostatistics - Reservoir simulation - Software development
David Edey

David Edey

X-Ray computed tomography, X-ray physics, Tomography reconstruction, Digital morphology, CT data visualization, Volumetric data analysis, Digital educational resources
Thomas Hess

Thomas Hess

Geoscience software, anisotropic imaging, seismic processing, seismic geometry, deconvolution, problem solving.
Jay P Kipper

Jay P Kipper

Personnel management, fiscal reporting, budget management, contract negotiation, management of geological samples

Graduate Students

Cameron M deFabry

Arnab Dhara

Stephanie R Forstner

Structural geology Fluid inclusion petrography & microthermometry Geochemical fluid-rock interactions Diagenesis

Shuhua Hu

Landon  Lockhart

Landon Lockhart

Landon's research is focused on characterizing the pressures and stresses in complex geologic settings. Specifically, his research integrates geomechanical modeling, experimental analysis, and field data at the Mad Dog Field, deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The title of Landon's thesis is "New Pore Pressure Prediction Workflow to Capture the Effects of ...

Nicholas J Montiel

Neelarun Mukherjee

Neelarun Mukherjee

My primary research interest lies in modeling transport and flows in the subsurface. My goal is to address the growing drinking water crisis due to groundwater contamination around the world by developing robust models to explain complex transport phenomena in the subsurface, primarily in the vadose and the critical zones ...
Simone  Puel

Simone Puel

I am a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Texas at Austin - Jackson School of Geosciences and a Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute for Geophysics. My current research focuses on developing a forward and inverse modeling framework for earthquake deformation problems using adjoint-based optimization methods, such as ...
Kevin W Shionalyn

Kevin W Shionalyn

ice-ocean interactions, glaciology, machine learning, acoustics, geophysics
Cole M Speed

Cole M Speed

I am a Ph.D. student with interests in remote sensing, geospatial data analytics, and Earth/planetary surface processes. My current research focuses on quantifying the evolution of modern fluvial landscapes and their preservation in the ancient rock record using high-resolution topography, time-lapse satellite imagery, numerical models, and field data. ...
Qiqi  Wang

Qiqi Wang

Research Wang’s research includes fundamental work on fracture pattern formation, methods to analysis patterns, clastic diagenesis, reservoir characterization, rock properties evaluation, and reservoir quality predictive modelling. Wang has expertise in petrography, scanning electron microscopy, fluid inclusion micro thermometry, field- and core-based fracture description, image log analysis, diagenetic and rock ...

Graduate and undergraduate research in geologic sequestration of CO2

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

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

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: 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

Student Opportunities

I am always interested in adding motivated new students to my Earthquake Science research team in the Jackson School. For prospective graduate students, please review the application guidelines and expectations listed on the Jackson School website (see orange link above). We do not accept "off track" admissions in the Jackson School, so the standard Fall application season is your best bet. I strongly encourage prospective students to reach out to me via email during this time with your CV and research interests. I highly value diversity in thought and experience, and students from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.
Posted by: Daniel Trugman

Sustainable Urban Systems

Sustainable Urban Systems
Posted by: Darrel Tremaine

Electromechanical instrumentation design

Electromechanical instrumentation design
Posted by: Darrel Tremaine

PhD/MS opportunities

My group welcomes new students with strong motivations on understanding how solid Earth and planets operate and its impacts on shaping habitable surface environments. Prospective students are expected to have a STEM background. If these describe you, feel free to contact me through email for position openings in my group.
Posted by: Chenguang Sun

Analyzing seismic data using machine learning techniques

Seismic recordings are used to detect earthquakes and to create images of the Earth’s interior. Seismic data contain rich patterns that can be discovered for extracting detailed information. Newly developed machine learning techniques aid in the discovery process. Deep learning has been used to detect arrivals of seismic signals from earthquakes and volcano eruptions and to extract from subsurface images such features, as faults, channels, salt bodies, etc. In detecting geological features, computational algorithms prove to be as powerful or even more powerful than the human eye, especially in higher dimensions. In this project, we are adopting the latest ideas from the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve the resolution ability of seismic images. Our objective is to advance the state of the art in discovering seismic data patterns. The approaches include unsupervised learning for analyzing seismic waveforms and compressing data in the transformed domain and supervised learning for teaching the computer how to imitate the work of human interpreters. We are seeking an enthusiastic student to participate in this project. The student will develop data-analysis skills and contribute to an open-source software project. Some prior familiarity with seismology and machine learning, as well as some prior experience with computer programming using Python are helpful but not required
Posted by: Sergey Fomel

Graduate opportunities at OCEEMlab

Graduate - Five years
OCEEMlab welcomes future graduate students of high caliber who are passionate about exploring new frontiers in Ocean and Earth science. At OCEEMlab, we study lithosphere-biosphere dynamic processes and complex systems using a combination of fieldwork, advanced computational modeling, and integrative data science. We seek candidates with solid foundations in natural sciences and programming skills. We are especially interested in bringing on board individuals with interdisciplinary knowledge who are highly motivated in weaving disciplines such as geophysics, geology, oceanography, geochemistry, and environmental molecular biology to address contemporary challenging research questions. Most importantly, in the core values of OCEEMlab lies courtesy to one another, encouraging natural curiosity, and cohesive teamwork; As a team, we can achieve far more than individuals. In addition, we firmly believe that groundbreaking discoveries are accomplished by walking on the fringes of science rather than at the center. Thus, we encourage unorthodox genuine thinkers to join our team and help us stretch the envelope of human knowledge a tiny bit further.
Posted by: Eric Attias

Postdocs opportunities at OCEEMlab

Graduate - Two years
OCEEMlab welcomes applicants via UTIG's Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellows Program. At OCEEMlab, we study lithosphere-biosphere dynamic processes and complex systems using a combination of fieldwork, advanced computational modeling, and integrative data science. We are especially interested in bringing on board individuals with interdisciplinary knowledge who are highly motivated in weaving disciplines such as geophysics, geology, oceanography, geochemistry, and environmental molecular biology to address contemporary challenging research questions. Contact Dr. Attias for further information.
Posted by: Eric Attias

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.

Center for Planetary Systems Habitability

The Center for Planetary Systems Habitability is an interdisciplinary research center at UT and is the result of a partnership between the Jackson School, the College of Natural Sciences, and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center advances our ability to search for life on other planets by collaborating on research that helps better understand where habitable zones develop and how they evolve within planetary systems.

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.