James Rector

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James Rector
James W. Rector III headshot.jpg
Latest company University of California, Berkeley
BSc Mathematics (BA)
MSc Exploration Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university University of Wisconsin-Madison
MSc university Stanford University
PhD university Stanford University

James W. (Jamie) Rector III is a professor in the Engineering Geoscience group at the University of California at Berkeley who pioneered research in crosswell reflection methods.


Contributed by H.F. Morrison[1]

The dynamic career of Professor James W. Rector III of the Engineering Geoscience Group at the University of California at Berkeley has led to international recognition for his work in subsurface seismic methods and innovative commercial enterprise. He was promoted to tenure 2015. All of this occurred before he turned 35.

Early Life and Education

James Rector may be accustomed to what seems accelerated progress to his peers. He started at the University of Wisconsin as a math major at 14 and in parallel attended the Wisconsin Conservatory Jazz Piano Program, where he polished his musical skills to the point of playing professionally at 16. To make sure that his educational experience was well rounded, he played golf in state junior tournaments and finished in the top 20 in the state amateur division at age 18. After finishing his B.A. in math at age 19, with an eclectic course program that he insists actually did contain some math and physics, he accepted an offer from Shell and discovered the world of geophysics.

In the oil boom of the early 1980s, his work as a geophysicist was exciting and the job included an offer to return to a university for a graduate degree. He entered the exploration geophysics program at Stanford and received his M.S. in 1984.

Rector's work at Stanford included considerable signal processing, and he received an offer from a small start-up company that was struggling to perfect a novel seismic technique using drill-bit noise for continuous VSP surveying. TOMEX was founded by Bernie Widrow, and at the age of 23 Rector was the youngest member and only geophysicist on the team. His contributions were critical to the eventual success of the idea, and he became committed to research and development in exploration seismology.

Rector returned to pursue a Ph.D. at Stanford, where he did pioneering work in crosswell reflection methods. He has published many papers in this area and is now regarded as one of the leading research scientists in the world in the field of borehole and cross borehole seismology.


Rector joined the faculty of the Engineering Geoscience Group at Berkeley in 1992 and has built a strong research program involving graduate students, research geophysicists, and faculty and staff colleagues on the Berkeley campus, at the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore national labs.

Since his graduation in 1990, Rector has published more than 11 papers in refereed journals, two on which he was co-author won best paper awards. The latest, in 1994, was with one of his current graduate students, John Washbourne. He was Assistant Editor for Geophysics from 1993 to 1995 and has an enviable teaching record in both general undergraduate engineering courses and graduate courses in signal processing and applied seismology. In parallel with these achievements, he is also a founder and active participant in Tomoseis, a company specializing in crosshole seismic surveys.

James Rector is known as a superb scientist and well-rounded person of wit, charm, and talent. He enjoys playing first-rate golf and organizing and playing in a popular professional band.

Honors and Awards


  1. 1996 SEG Annual Meeting, SEG Honors and Awards Program
  2. Harris, J. M., et al. (1995) High-resolution crosswell imaging of a west Texas carbonate reservoir: Part 1 - Project summary and interpretation, GEOPHYSICS 60(3):667.
  3. Rector, J. W., and B. P. Marion (1991) The use of drill-bit energy as a downhole seismic source, GEOPHYSICS May 1991, Vol. 56, No. 5, pp. 628-634.
  4. J. Clarence Karcher Award

External Links

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