Geophysics/Seismology

The Jackson School has one of the country’s largest, most diverse, and most respected geophysics programs. Ranked No. 6 according to U.S. New & World Report, the geophysics program benefits from outstanding connections to industry and a strong grounding in basic research through the school’s major units, including the Institute for Geophysics, which employs 40 research scientists (and many JSG graduate students) working across the spectrum of geophysics research.


Overall, the Jackson School has about 250 graduate students in all disciplines, divided about equally between master of science and doctoral degree seekers. Both degrees involve original research in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and publication of results and presentation at professional society meetings is a goal for all graduate students.

Roughly 20 percent of the graduate student body is engaged in research that employs geophysical observations, and/or develops new geophysical techniques. The diverse graduate research opportunities in geophysics can be separated broadly into four major themes: field intensive studies; theoretical and numerical investigations; applied geophysics; and regional to global scale studies.

Field Studies

Examples include Antarctic expeditions with aero-geophysical surveys of major ice sheets; marine geophysical expeditions to understand tectonic and sedimentary processes over the continental margins and deep oceans; broad-band seismic experiments to illuminate the structure of the crust and upper mantle; airborne laser mapping of topography to understand terrestrial sedimentary processes; radar and electromagnetic investigations of the near-surface; and active source seismic experiments for near-surface and petroleum exploration studies. There are also development efforts for seismic sources and receivers, gravity, radar, and other field instrumentation.

Theoretical and numerical investigations

These include: 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.

Applied geophysics

Geophysical methods employing seismic and electromagnetic waves can be used to explore for resources, including petroleum, water, and others, and to estimate near surface physical properties for identification of hazards. Examples underway at UT include improved imaging of subsurface structures to support geological interpretation; estimation of subsurface physical properties from conventional and multi-component seismic data; and application of electromagnetic methods (radar and others) to estimate subsurface structure and physical properties.

Regional to global scale studies

UT geophysicists develop images of the interior of the earth using seismic waves; study earthquake sources and their distribution in time and space; interpret the deformation of the crust and the forces that cause them; and study Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields from surface and space-based observations.

Faculty

Thorsten  Becker

Thorsten Becker

mantle convection; plate tectonics; structural seismology; numerical modeling; earthquakes; fluid dynamics
Ginny Catania

Ginny Catania

Ice sheet mass balance, ice dynamics, subglacial hydrology, ice sheet stratigraphy, radar, GPS methods, uncertainty in ice sheet response to climate, satellite observations, remote-sensing observations, outlet glaciers, Greenland, glaciology, Antarctica, sea level, ice-ocean interactions.
Sergey Fomel

Sergey Fomel

Computational and exploration geophysics; seismic imaging; wave propagation; seismic data analysis; inverse problems; geophysical estimation
Omar  Ghattas

Omar Ghattas

Computational geoscience and engineering, simulation and optimization of complex solid, fluid, and biomechanical systems, inverse problems, optimal design, and optimal control
Stephen P Grand

Stephen P Grand

Seismic imaging of Earth's mantle, tomography, dynamics of flow in the mantle, regional seismic studies
Sean S Gulick

Sean S Gulick

– Marine and planetary geophysical imaging at nested resolutions and ground truth through drilling, coring, logging, and sampling.
– Tectonic processes, tectonic-climate interactions, and geohazards of convergent margins and transitional tectonic environments.
– Role of catastrophism in the geologic record including impact cratering, hurricanes, and tectonic events.
– Planetary habitability, impact ...
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
Jung-Fu  Lin

Jung-Fu Lin

Mineral physics, physics and chemistry of planetary materials, solid-Earth geophysics and geochemistry, high-pressure diamond anvil cell, X-ray and laser spectroscopy
Demian M Saffer

Demian M Saffer

Active tectonics, fault/sediment mechanics, geohydrology.
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.
Nicola  Tisato

Nicola Tisato

Experimental rock physics and rock mechanics. Digital Rock Physics. Speleology. Seismic wave attenuation, Physical properties of rocks, Wave-Induced-Phenomena, Genesis of caves and speleothems, Reservoir characterization, Nuclear waste management.
Daniel  Trugman

Daniel Trugman

earthquakes, seismology, big data, machine learning, inverse theory, hazard, risk, ground motion

Lecturers

Peter H Hennings

Peter H Hennings

Peter Hennings’ expertise is applied structural geology and geomechanics for which his interests are broad spanning structural systems analysis, subsurface interpretation, fault system characterization, fractured reservoir characterization, reservoir geomechanics, and subsurface fluid flow. Dr. Hennings is known as an integrator which is vital for the study of induced seismicity for ...
Jeffrey G Paine

Jeffrey G Paine

Near-surface geophysics in hydrogeology and environmental and Quaternary geology; coastal geology; Quaternary geology and geomorphology; computer applications in the geological sciences
Kenneth W Wisian

Kenneth W Wisian

Geothermal Geophysics, SETI, Exoplanets, Space Exploration, Disaster Response, Recovery & Resiliency, Military Technology Applications, International Affairs, Innovation, Curriculum Development

Affiliated Faculty

Kathy Ellins

Kathy Ellins

Geoscience education; Discipline Based Education Research (DBER); teacher professional development; geoscience curriculum development; undergraduate geoscience teacher preparation; climate literacy; geoscience, art and design engagement
Claudio  Faccenna

Claudio Faccenna

Topics: subduction tectonic and morphological evolution of convergent margin, evolution of orogenic belt and exhumation of deep metamorphic rocks, dynamic topography, trench migration and back-arc deformation, mantle convection, volcanism and fluid circulation in the crust. Tools: Structural geology and geomorphology, experimental / numerical geodynamic modelling, paleomagnetism, seismic lines interpretation. Field sites: ...

Emeriti

Yosio  Nakamura

Yosio Nakamura

Geophysics, lunar and planetary seismology, ocean-bottom seismometry
Paul L Stoffa

Paul L Stoffa

Multichannel seismic acquisition, signal processing, acoustic and elastic wave propagation, modeling and inversion of geophysical data
Clark R Wilson

Clark R Wilson

Geophysics, including gravity, space geodesy, and applied seismology

Research Scientists

James A Austin

James A Austin

Stratigraphic evolution of a wide range of marine and lacustrine environments around the world

Shuvajit Bhattacharya

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

Cyril Grima

Peter H Hennings

Peter H Hennings

Peter Hennings’ expertise is applied structural geology and geomechanics for which his interests are broad spanning structural systems analysis, subsurface interpretation, fault system characterization, fractured reservoir characterization, reservoir geomechanics, and subsurface fluid flow. Dr. Hennings is known as an integrator which is vital for the study of induced seismicity for ...
Lawrence A Lawver

Lawrence A Lawver

Marine geophysics, plate tectonics, magnetics, gravity, heat flow, seismic studies, paleogeographic reconstructions of Gondwana, the Polar Regions, East Asia, and the Western Pacific
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
Harm J Van Avendonk

Harm J Van Avendonk

Van Avendonk is an active-source seismologist who specializes in the acquisition and inversion of seismic refraction data on land and at sea. Often these seismic refraction data are used for a tomographic inversion. The resultant seismic velocity models help us to interpret the composition of the Earth’s crust and ...

Laura Wallace

Crustal deformation, GPS/Geodesy, active plate boundary processes, subduction tectonics, geohazards
Kenneth W Wisian

Kenneth W Wisian

Geothermal Geophysics, SETI, Exoplanets, Space Exploration, Disaster Response, Recovery & Resiliency, Military Technology Applications, International Affairs, Innovation, Curriculum Development
Xiaohua  Xu

Xiaohua Xu

Hongliu  Zeng

Hongliu Zeng

Seismic sedimentology; seismic geomorphology; seismic and sequence stratigraphy; Characterization of thin-bed reservoirs; seismic chrono-stratgraphy
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. https://www.beg.utexas.edu/aec/
Michael V DeAngelo

Michael V DeAngelo

2-D/3-D seismic interpretation and seismic inversion analysis; geological/geophysical database management; development of seismic vector-wavefield technologies; seismic data acquisition and 3D acquisition design
Thomas Hess

Thomas Hess

Geoscience software, anisotropic imaging, seismic processing, seismic geometry, deconvolution, problem solving.
Ian O Norton

Ian O Norton

Plate tectonics, structural evolution of continental margins, reconciliation of observations from structural geology with regional tectonics

Graduate Students

William S Bailey

Avigyan  Chatterjee

Avigyan Chatterjee

Earthquake Early-Warning Systems, Ground Motion Seismology, Machine-Learning
Edward  Clennett

Edward Clennett

I am a second year PhD candidate in the geodynamics and tectonics group at UT Austin. I am interested in plate tectonic reconstruction models, and how we can use plate driving forces to better constrain past plate motion and continental deformation. Plate motion and deformation are modelled through time using ...

Cameron M deFabry

Arnab Dhara

Abdulah  Eljalafi

Abdulah Eljalafi

Abdulah s research focuses on understanding depositional and stratigraphic processes of carbonate platforms. His research focuses on deciphering the architectural relationships of mid Cretaceous carbonate platforms in mexico from a depositional standpoint based on field mapping. Other Interests include microbialite morphology, field stratigraphy, and invertebrate paleontology.
Andrew Gase

Andrew Gase

I use seismic and electromagnetic geophysical methods to probe the earth at lithospheric and environmental scales. My recent interests include subduction zone structure, volcanic geomorphology, and magmatic-tectonic interactions.

Zhicheng Geng

Marco  Guirola

Marco Guirola

My main area of interest is seismic interpretation applied to the characterization and subsequent selection of suitable sites for carbon injection in the context of CCS technology. I study fault characteristics to evaluate and risk-assess CO2 permanence in prospects for geologic storage in the Gulf of Mexico. I am interested ...

Shuhua Hu

Sarp  Karakaya

Sarp Karakaya

Professional Summary: Ph.D. candidate at Jackson School of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin with seven years of oil industry experience in Turkish Petroleum Corporation, and an M.Sc. in Geology from Rutgers University. Evaluated multiple deep-sea depositional systems with significant commercial potential. Has extensive experience ...

Megan Kerr

Christopher S Linick

I am a geophysicist with roots in geodesy. I study inverse problems at the intersection of hydrology and geodesy; for instance, currently I am working to quantify snowpack across the Sierra Nevada of California from dense GPS observations of crustal deformation and other data types. I also work with gravimeters, ...

Chujie Liu

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 ...

Russell Miller

My interest is understanding planetary bodies evolutionary history with regards to the diversity of landscapes across the solar system. My work aims to better understand the recent Martian environment with the expectation to be applied to analogue terrains.

Nicholas J Montiel

Nam P Pham

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 ...

Logan Schmidt

Logan is interested in the shallow subsurface and its interaction with terrestrial ecosystems. His graduate research seeks to identifying regions of the Earth in which rock moisture (groundwater existing beneath the soil but above the water table in weathered, fractured bedrock) is ecologically important and to quantify the hydrologic dynamics ...
Kevin W Shionalyn

Kevin W Shionalyn

ice-ocean interactions, glaciology, geophysics
Shuai  Yan

Shuai Yan

Graduate and undergraduate research in geologic sequestration of CO2

Graduate
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

High Resolution 3D marine seismic for fluid studies

Graduate
Opportunities exist to become involved in the design, acquisition, processing, and interpretation of high-resolution 3D marine seismic data. Current applications include characterization for subsurface storage of carbon dioxide and natural fluid migration studies. We anticipate development into imaging modern systems as reservoir analogs.
Posted by: Tip Meckel

Student Opportunities

Graduate
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

Electromechanical instrumentation design

Graduate
Electromechanical instrumentation design
Posted by: Darrel Tremaine

Quaternary Evolution of Mississippi Submarine Canyon

Undergraduate - Position duration is unknown
Michael Sweet (Institute for Geophysics) is looking for an undergraduate student researcher to use bathymetric and seismic data to understand the evolution of the Mississippi Submarine Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico. The researcher will learn to interpret seismic data and use ArcGIS software to integrate bathymetry and other geospatial data. The student will receive a $2500 scholarship from the Institute for Geophysics. Depending on progress, there may be opportunities for publication.
Posted by: Michael Sweet

Analyzing seismic data using machine learning techniques

Undergraduate
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

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.

EDGER Forum (Exploration & Development Geophysics Education & Research)

The Edger Forum is a consortium of industry participants sponsoring Education & Research in Exploration Geophysical Technology.

Exploration Geophysics

The Exploration Geophysics Laboratory (EGL) develops a wide range of technologies using all components of the seismic wavefield, including seismic field-recording techniques, data-processing and data-interpretation procedures, for improved reservoir characterization and prospect evaluation.

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.

PLATES

A program of research into plate tectonics and geologic reconstructions, the PLATES Project is supported by an industry consortium. Our primary objectives are to model past and present plate movement, compile comprehensive databases, develop plate motion computer software and apply plate motion models.

Reservoir Characterization Research Laboratory

The Reservoir Characterization Research Laboratory (RCRL) seeks to use outcrop and subsurface geologic and petrophysical data from carbonate reservoir strata as the basis for developing new and integrated methodologies to better understand and describe the 3-D reservoir environment.

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.

TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program

In the 84th Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature tasked us with helping to locate and determine the origins of earthquakes in our State, and, where they may have been caused by human activity, helping to prevent them from occurring in the future. We have established the TexNet earthquake monitoring program to accomplish these goals, and we plan to place earthquake monitoring stations across Texas to gather information about and study these events as they occur. We want to help inform Texas citizens so that they can keep their property safe from the impact of earthquakes.

Affiliated UT Programs & Centers

Center for Space Research

The University of Texas at Austin, Center for Space Research was established in 1981 under the direction of Dr. Byron D. Tapley. The mission of the Center is to conduct research in orbit determination, space geodesy, the Earth and its environment, exploration of the solar system, as well as expanding the scientific applications of space systems data.

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 Marcus Gary
Photos of research of the Sistema Zacaton karst area