Please tell us a little bit about yourself (e.g., your educational and work experience, why you became geophysicist, etc.)
I grew up in Liverpool, started my undergrad studies in physics in Manchester, and then went to Canada, where I gravitated toward geophysics due to my interest in things geological – how the Earth formed and why it is the way it is. My initial fascination was with heat flow, but I soon became engrossed in signal processing and image enhancement. My first geophysics-related job was with IT&A Inc., in Vancouver, then with CGG in London and Paris for 15 years, and since 2000 with GXT (now part of ION) in the UK.
What work opportunities facilitated your career development, what motivates you, and how did you end up doing what you do today?
I've always been curious about finding the answers to particular questions. I've had some outstanding teachers, and also been fortunate in that various managers gave me opportunities to work on topics that interested me. As you know, commercial imperatives being what they are, there are often opportunities to present what one is working on, as from a contractor's point of view, presenting R&D is a form of technical marketing. I found that I enjoyed explaining things, and fortunately, there's a place for that in our industry, since describing complex concepts and applications is important.
Why did you choose this lecture topic? Why is it important?
For the past 20 years, I've been working on migration and velocity model building -- originally writing algorithms, then building and managing groups deploying the technology, and in more recent years promoting this technology. Seismic imaging is the only way of obtaining a relatively high-resolution view of the subsurface (and involves an interesting balance of maths, physics, and computer science). For finding hydrocarbons, we need these images and derived attributes to both see what the geological structures are like, and also to determine the rock and fluid properties needed to help exploit hydrocarbon reserves.
Could you tell us in a few sentences what your presentation objectives are?
The SEG Honorary Lecture program is different from most other lecture series, in that it targets two distinct audiences. First, those already working in the field of geoscience (members of local SEG affiliate societies), and second, university students studying diverse science and engineering topics. Much of the lecture tour seeks to interest students in the hope of recruiting potential candidates - the next generation of geoscientists.
For these potential newcomers, I'd like to give an overview of the importance of energy supply, how we find hydrocarbons, the role that imaging plays in this endeavor, and the rapid evolution of the technology we employ to provide subsurface images and attributes.
What do you hope people will have learned after they attend your lecture?
The wide and diverse aspects of geoscience in the oil and gas industry offer a home for a very broad range of interests and abilities. I hope that after this tour, some – who would not otherwise have thought of employment in our industry – may have been encouraged to consider using their talents in it.
You have quite a busy year ahead. Do you enjoy traveling? Will it be difficult to balance the tour with your work?
I enjoy travelling, but unfortunately, it's never in moderation: I'm sure that after this lecture tour I'll glad not to see an airport for a while! As for work – I should be able to combine some of the lectures with client visits, and thereby continue to "justify my existence." And, "tongue in cheek," I could also observe whether, being permitted to undertake this tour by my employers, really indicates that I am somewhat superfluous to requirements, and won't be missed for the next six months either!
Would you share with us one or two of your most exciting successes?
In the 1990s, it was seeing that the depth-migration research that I had worked on came to fruition and became a commercial service that has become an industrial norm. And since moving on from an R&D role, I've found that besides speaking, I also enjoy writing, and this, to some extent, is appreciated by the geoscience community.
How about a couple of disappointments?
Hmmm.. that's a tricky one to answer politely. I guess my biggest disappointments have been when internal politics interfere with the advancement and promotion of good science. Fortunately, I've not seen that too often, and not in recent years.
What advice would you give to geophysics students and professionals just starting out in the industry?
My advice would be to try to take a long-term and broad view of your career. Learning a complex topic and developing the competencies to do specific things well, are not isolated or short-term activities. Once you've become a competent geoscientist, there are plenty of specialist niche areas – offering interesting and exciting opportunities to be creative, that are both stimulating and rewarding.