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Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8199

March 8, 2007

Contact: Lisa Merkl
713.743.8192 (office)
713.605.1757 (pager)

Research, Educational Excellence by Five Professors Honored by NSF, SEG and Others

HOUSTON, March 8, 2007 – Whether it’s tracking down hydrocarbons or explaining how mountains are built, University of Houston geoscientists have amassed knowledge of seismic proportions, according to three international science societies and the National Science Foundation.

Five UH geosciences professors recently received prestigious honors for expertise in various areas. The honorees include:

  • Janok Bhattacharya, Robert Sheriff Professor of Sequence Stratigraphy, is tapped to receive the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in an April ceremony for outstanding contributions to geological education.
  • Aibing Li, assistant professor of geophysics, received a $450,000, five-year NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award that supports teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the mission of their organization.
  • Fred Hilterman, Margaret Sheriff Professor of Geophysics, received the Maurice Ewing Medal from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). The highest honor given by SEG, the Ewing Medal extends special recognition to major contributions to advancing the science and profession of exploration geophysics.
  • John F. Dewey, distinguished university research professor of geology, received the Structure and Tectonics Career Contribution Award from the Geological Society of America for his contributions to the science of structural geology and tectonics.
  • Kurt Marfurt, professor of geophysics and director of the Center for Applied Geosciences and Energy, was chosen by SEG to teach its 2006 Distinguished Instructor Short Course (DISC). Selection as the DISC instructor is regarded as a recognition of excellence by SEG.

“Five awards of this caliber in one year is truly remarkable for any department, and we could not be prouder of the outstanding accomplishments of these professors in both teaching and research,” said John Casey, chair of the geosciences department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “They have clearly distinguished themselves among their peers, and the honors bestowed upon these five exceptional faculty members are a measure of the strength of our geophysics and geology faculty and our research and teaching programs at UH.”

Bhattacharya’s research focuses on sequence stratigraphy, a branch of geology concerned with interpreting rock deposition patterns used in hydrocarbon exploration and other geological pursuits.

“Our program crosses the boundaries between geophysics and engineering disciplines and provides an important environment for teamwork and integration that we believe provides a model for industry,” he said.

Li is working on integrating seismic constraints on the continental upper mantle.

“The oldest continent blocks, known as cratons, have been in existence over billions of years since their formation,” she said. “How cratons keep their stability from the destruction of tectonic events and how they evolve through geological history are interesting yet challenging questions.”

As a member of the UH Center for Applied Geosciences and Energy, Hilterman heads the Reservoir Quantification Laboratory (RQL), established to better understand the physical processes affecting seismic amplitude that can be used to identify the composition and shape of possible oil reservoirs.

RQL research involves wave theory, processing, lab experiments and continuous verification with field data. Seismic 3-D surveys and data from deepwater reservoirs to hard-rock reservoirs in West Texas are under investigation, Hilterman said.

Dewey is well known for pursuing a unifying theory for formation of mountain belts in Ireland and the Eastern United States and for his groundbreaking proposals in 1968 of how plate tectonics could explain orogeny, the geological process of mountain building. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dewey joined UH in January.

Marfurt’s SEG course discussed seismic attributes for exploration and reservoir characterization. He presented this one-day seminar at more than 25 locations around the world, appealing to a wide audience that ranged from students to seasoned professionals.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with nearly 400 faculty members and approximately 4,000 students, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics and physics have internationally recognized collaborative research programs in association with UH interdisciplinary research centers, Texas Medical Center institutions and national laboratories.

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