Award-winning geophysics: Chair in the Department of Physics receives prestigious peer recognition

Mauricio Sacchi honoured with the 2019 Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

Andrew Lyle - 17 October 2019

Geophysicist Mauricio Sacchi has been recognized for outstanding contributions to the field of geophysics by the global Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), receiving the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award.

"I'm honoured to receive this recognition from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, particularly as recipients of this award are nominated by peers," said Sacchi, professor and chair in the Department of Physics. "It is a testament to the quality and hard work of my students. It also means that my research community is paying attention to the work that comes from our group."

Sacchi's research focuses on applied seismology, particularly seismic data analysis and imaging. His research entails the development of techniques to create accurate images of what structures and resources lie underground.

"Images of the subsurface are not only needed to explore for oil and gas but also to reveal geological structures and understand subsurface processes. Much like how in medicine you want to know what is inside the body without surgery, our work uses mathematical techniques and the physics of wave propagation phenomena to create images of the subsurface in a non-invasive manner," said Sacchi.

The Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award, one of the highest honours awarded by SEG, recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the science of geophysical exploration over the previous five years. And even as the award celebrates his achievements over the past five years, Sacchi is already looking forward to where research and the field of geophysics will be going over the next five.

What comes next

Members of Sacchi's lab are working on compression techniques to improve the efficiency of the mathematically-intensive imaging processes they use. "In a similar way to how you can compress a photo, we're looking into dimensionality reduction techniques to compress linear and non-linear operators that are at the core of algorithms for seismic imaging," said Sacchi.

Sacchi and his team are also looking at ways to optimize sensor placement-a problem with applications across many fields of science and on strategies for the solution of large geophysical ill-posed problems.

"Taking on these questions is exciting work and allows students in our group to gain expertise in quantitative geoscience, physics and applied mathematics," said Sacchi.

Congratulations, Mauricio.

Want to hear more about the award-winning research and teaching at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Science? Check out our recognition and awards page.