George McMechan

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George McMechan
George McMechan headshot.gif
Latest company UT Dallas
BSc Geological Engineering
MSc Physics
BSc university University of British Columbia
MSc university University of Toronto

George McMechan is perhaps the most complete technical geophysicist who ever lived. He has authored over 200 SEG publications, including 89 since 1997. Many have been foundational, leading to over 600 SEG citations. More impressive than these numbers is the astonishing range of topics covered: seismic (acoustic, elastic, multicomponent, viscoelastic, and poro-elastic isotropic and anisotropic wave propagation, and the corresponding inversion, imaging and migration processes; seismic physical characterization and interpretation, with applications to reservoir and aquifer characterization, AVO, crosswell and VSP surveys; earthquake source studies, and wide-aperture analyses) to electromagnetic (2D, 2.5D and 3D ground-penetrating radar forward and inverse problems, with applications to reservoir analogs, sedimentological mapping, earthquake fault mapping, and engineering and environmental problems). Of course, this productivity is accomplished through legions of UTD students (he’s supervised over 40 PhDs and 20 master’s degrees), most of whom have gone on to productive careers in the hydrocarbon industry and some of whom have become outstanding members of the profession. McMechan received the Kauffman Award in 1997.

Biography Citation for the Maurice Ewing Medal 2012

Contributed by Larry Lines

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler —Albert Einstein

This quote exemplifies the technical contributions of George McMechan who is the 2012 recipient of the Maurice Ewing Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the science of geophysics. George is honored for his many important, innovative and lucid publications on an unprecedented number of geophysical research topics.

Education and Early Career

McMechan’s prolific research productivity has spanned more than four decades after he received his bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of British Columbia and his master’s in physics from the University of Toronto. His early career involved research appointments at the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Stanford Exploration Project, and the University of Victoria. In 1983, McMechan received a professorial appointment at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) where he has worked to the present day. In the early 1980s, George’s accomplishments started to become widely known because of important papers on seismic imaging. In 1983, he published the famous paper “Migration by extrapolation of time dependent boundary values” in Geophysical Prospecting which, along with papers published in the same year by Whitmore (an SEG Expanded Abstract) and Baysal et al. (in Geophysics) laid the foundation for the highly important reverse-time migration (RTM) method. Following this pioneering migration paper, McMechan and his students produced a plethora of seismic imaging papers for 2D and 3D versions of elastic, anisotropic and viscoelastic forms of the wave equation. In fact, it is unlikely that there is a form of RTM that he has not explored. For his many accomplishments in seismic wavefield modeling and migration, McMechan received the Virgil Kauffman Medal in 1997. He has not slowed down since that time, publishing 89 more papers on a wide variety of topics including seismic imaging, AVO, GPR, reservoir characterization, and rock physics. This wide spectrum of topics may well exceed that of any exploration geophysicist.


It is not only the importance and variety of publications that are impressive. McMechan’s papers are incredibly lucid, understandable, and as simple as possible. A typical McMechan paper builds on a solid foundation of previous work, clearly outlines a few relevant equations, and contains illustrative data examples. For a scientist seeking to be at the research frontiers in the future, I have always thought that one should read the papers of George McMechan. He always seems to have an understanding of how geophysical research will evolve.

A favorite memory of collaboration with George McMechan came in 1983 during his visit to the Amoco Research Center in Tulsa. We had invited George to give a seminar on "Seismic tomography in boreholes.” Following his lecture, George had a chance to discuss depth migration with Dan Whitmore. During their conversations, it became apparent that both researchers had independently developed RTM algorithms and that these algorithms were being extensively applied by Amoco in imaging complex structures in exploration plays. McMechan’s reaction to these conversations could best be described as a “eureka moment” in geophysical research.

Over the past four decades of publications, McMechan’s high-impact papers have been followed by further generalizations of earlier works. He has been one of the most productive authors in the history of exploration geophysics, with over 200 SEG publications.

Exceptional Research Director

In addition to his exceptional research record, McMechan has mentored more that 60 graduate students at UTD. As a researcher, author, mentoring professor, he has had an incredible and lasting impact on exploration geophysics. His contributions make him truly worthy of the Maurice Ewing Medal.