Jie Zhang is the founder and Chairman of GeoTomo  and a Professor at the University of Science and Technology in China , where he founded the Geophysical Research Institute, increasing geophysics faculty members from five to 25 and graduate students from zero to 81. In addition, Zhang founded the Stanford-USTC-MIT (SUM) program, promoting academic and culture exchange among students and faculty members from these three universities. He received his BS in geophysics from USTC in 1986, MS in geophysics from Pennsylvania State University in 1991, and PhD in geophysics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996.
Zhang contributes to the Society as SEG Trustee Associate, chair of the SEG China Advisory Committee, member of the SEG Meetings Review and Planning Committee since 2013, and member of SEG China Task Force Committee in 2009 and 2014. Zhang chaired five major SEG events in China and helped SEG to organize many other international meetings by serving on various organizing or technical committees. He is also a member of AGU, EAGE, and SSA. He was awarded the 2015 SEG Outstanding Educator Award. He also received the 2012 SEG Reginald Fessenden Award, along with Xianhuai Zhu, for their outstanding joint contributions to the development of seismic tomographic solutions to the problem of accurate imaging with complex near-surface geology. Their idea and development from the turning ray tomography to full wave front first arrival travel time tomography enabled a more robust imaging approach, with less reliance on the initial model. The vast application areas of this method include many shallow water and land data imaging challenges associated with shallow gas, sand dunes, and structural overthrusts, among others.
SEG Life Membership Award 2020
Jie Zhang receives Life Membership for his exceptional service to the Society. In the past, Zhang has been awarded both the SEG Reginald Fessenden Award (2012) and Outstanding Educator (2015). He has served on the SEG Board of Directors and numerous committees. In this role, Zhang is credited with essentially building and supporting the SEG China office along with Alfred Liaw. As an SEG volunteer, he has engaged in numerous activities to promote SEG and the science of geophysics. He has been an SEG member since 1991 and a Trustee Associate of the SEG Foundation since 2010. He helped establish the SEG China Representative office in Beijing and from 2009 to 2011 he served as a member of the SEG China Advisory Committee to help SEG convert the China Representative Office to a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in order to initiate SEG-organized workshops and promote student chapters in China. Zhang served on the Board of Directors of SEG Global Inc. from 2010 to 2013 to manage both the SEG Middle East and China offices. He served on the SEG Meetings Review and Planning Committee and participated in the SEG China Task Force to establish strategies, plans, and the key performance index for SEG China. He chaired the SEG China Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2015, helping SEG China initiate, plan, and operate events. Zhang chaired the 2012 CPS/SEG Conference in Shenzhen, China, and served as the SEG South and East Asia Honorary Lecturer in 2016. He served as SEG second vice president in 2015–2016 and SEG first vice president in 2016–2017.
Biography Citation for the Life Membership Award
Jie Zhang, an educator, a professional, and an entrepreneur, has successfully built bridges to connect Chinese geophysicists with global geophysical communities by voluntarily rendering his exceptional services to the Society.
Jie is an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a professor at the University of Science and Technology (USTC) of China. There he has led research efforts in the field of exploration geophysics, earthquake seismology, medical imaging, and bioengineering. He was the founder of GeoTomo, a global technology and service provider for land seismic data processing and imaging. He served as SEG vice president (2016–2017), chaired the SEG China Advisory Committee, and served on the Board of SEG Global Inc., the SEG Meetings Review and Planning Committee, the Distinguished Lecture Committee, the Executive Director Search Committee, and many others. He also served as a member of MIT Visiting Committee, a member of the Board of Governors of Asia Business School, founded by MIT Sloan School of Management, and a member of Advisory Committee for UCSD Cancer Researchers in Nanotechnology. In 2020, he became an elected member of the United States National Academy of Engineering for his invaluable contributions to “advances in earthquake seismology, geophysical imaging, and medical technology.”
As a member of the SEG China Task Force in 2015, Jie led SEG to establish a wholly owned foreign entity (WOFE) office in China, and recruited the first chief representative of SEG China. By successfully registered as a WOFE, SEG has a legal operational license in China for 30 years. While serving on the SEG China Advisory Committee, he guided the business operations of SEG China to achieve financial break-even two years ahead of what was planned by the Task Force. He has chaired eight SEG technical workshops/conferences, including 2018 CPS/SEG Conference in Beijing, China, SEG Full Waveform Inversion Workshop, Manama, Bahrain, Microseismic Technology Workshop, Hefei, China, 2016 SPG/SEG International Conference, Nanjing, China, 2010 CPS/SEG Conference in Shenzhen, China, etc.
After joining USTC, Jie founded the Geophysical Research Institute, with its aim to promote broad research in geophysics and inter-disciplinary collaboration. Due to his leadership, the USTC exploration geophysics program experienced a dramatic increase in active faculty, graduate student enrollment, SEG Annual Meeting abstract submissions, and the formation of the USTC SEG Student Chapter. He is a strong proponent of multidisciplinary collaboration at USTC. With computer science faculty and students, Jie and his colleagues developed an earthquake search engine for issuing an early warning in less than a second after receiving data. A patent has been filed for the technology and a related paper has been published in Nature Communications. Collaboration with physics faculty and students led to the development of a unique seismic hard drive that allows handling seismic traces 40 times faster than the standard computer disk at the same cost.
Jie made a generous personal donation to the SEG Foundation and became a Trustee Associate of the SEG foundation in 2014. Jie donated to his former elementary school and helped the school build the Earth and Space Sciences Library in China. An additional donation was made to his high school to build a computer lab and to his former college to establish 12 academic awards for students and faculty members. He helped to establish three graduate fellowships at MIT to honor Ted Madden, Nafi Toksöz, and Sven Treitel.
I am truly honored to prepare this citation to commemorate Jie Zhang’s well deserved SEG Life Membership Award based on his exceptionally meritorious service to the Society and to SEG China.
2016 SEG Honorary Lecturer, South and East Asia
Looking into the near surface imaging technologies and results
Although exploration geophysicists are making tremendous efforts to image the deep subsurface for hydrocarbon resources, complex near-surface structures often impose significant challenges. Unlike the subsurface, near-surface structures vary from region to region. Thus, it is difficult to develop any benchmark model that represents common issues worldwide.
During the past 20 years, near-surface imaging technologies have been advanced from refraction traveltime analysis and inversion to waveform inversion. The immediate benefit is to resolve any complex velocity structure associated with low-velocity hidden layers if such waveform inversion is handled properly. However, inverting seismic waveform often suffers from cycle skipping because of a poor starting model or missing low-frequency data. Jointly inverting traveltime, waveform envelope, and waveform data seems to stabilize the solutions. With more data used for near-surface imaging, we also can infer anisotropic parameters, attenuation factors, and both VP and VS with simplified assumptions.
Since the cross-gradient approach was introduced in 2005, the simultaneous inversion of multiple types of geophysical data also has been applied in near-surface imaging. That includes joint seismic, gravity, and EM inversion for mapping seismic velocity, density, and resistivity into a near-surface structure with consistent geology. We demonstrate the changes resulting from the progress in imaging-technology development and the transition to much more data included for near-surface imaging by worldwide examples.
Biography Citation for the SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2015
Professor Jie Zhang of the University of Science and Technology in China (USTC) is the recipient of the 2015 SEG Outstanding Educator Award for his outstanding contributions to geophysics education and his inspiring mentorship to future geophysicists, specifically in the following areas: his commitment to excellence in geophysics education; his special dedication to advising, supervising, and mentoring students; his development of innovative collaborative educational opportunities for geophysics students in China and the United States; and his extraordinary inspiration to the next generation of geophysics professionals.
Professor Zhang has been a visiting professor at MIT and Stanford, where he taught a graduate course on near-surface geophysics. He experimented with classroom in-person teaching integrated with live presentations by leading experts in industry via the Internet. In January 2011, he became a professor in USTC and began to teach near-surface geophysics and advanced geophysics. Approximately 60 students took the courses every year. In addition to geophysical theory, these students benefited from Jie’s broad experience in field work as well.
After joining USTC, Jie founded the Geophysical Research Institute at USTC, with the aim of promoting broad research in geophysics and interdisciplinary collaboration. During his leadership in 2011–2014, the USTC exploration-geophysics program experienced a dramatic increase in active faculty members (from five to 25), graduate enrollment (from zero to 81), and SEG Annual Meeting paper submissions (from zero to 27) and the formation of the USTC SEG Student Chapter. Three graduate students from his research team won the championship of the SEG Challenge Bowl competition in China, and five students received best presentation awards at SEG workshops.
Jie is a strong proponent of multidisciplinary collaboration at USTC. With computer-science faculty and students, he and his colleagues developed an earthquake search engine for issuing an early warning in less than a second after receiving data. The technology has been filed for a patent, and a related paper has been published in Nature Communications. Collaboration with physics faculty members and students led to the development of a unique seismic hard drive that allows handling seismic traces 40 times faster than the standard computer disk at the same cost.
Jie founded the Stanford-USTC-MIT (SUM) program in 2012 to promote academic and culture exchange among students and faculty members among universities. SUM launched a geophysics student summer camp that year with the theme of “Explore the Earth,” and 44 graduate students attended. The program was expanded in 2013 to include chemistry and physics and invited 18 faculty members from Stanford and MIT to participate in a forum on “University and Innovation.” Attendees included 65 faculty members and 1,500 students from USTC, 60 students from other universities in China, and 20 high school students. SUM further expanded the efforts in 2014 to initiate a summer camp on “Student Entrepreneurship,” with 40 student participants from these three universities, majoring in geophysics, computer science, engineering, and business disciplines.
Jie has offered seed funding at USTC to support student start-up companies. As a member of the MIT Earth Sciences Visiting Committee, chairman of SEG China Advisory Committee, and a director of SEG Global, Inc., Jie is lending his vision and expertise in geophysics education, research, and entrepreneurship to many students. He has been a true inspiration to the next generation of geophysicists.
Professor Zhang is truly an outstanding educator who has enthusiastically inspired future geoscientists. We are honored to congratulate him as the recipient of the 2015 SEG Outstanding Educator Award.
Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award 2012
Contributed by Öz Yilmaz
It is most appropriate for SEG to recognize Jie Zhang with the Reginald Fessenden Award for his pioneering work on nonlinear traveltime tomography. Modeling the near-surface in exploration seismology has been a challenge to us all. The work of Jie Zhang and Xianhuai Zhu have indeed made possible the practical applications of nonlinear tomography and turning-ray tomography, respectively, to estimate near-surface models to correct for the deleterious effect of the complex near-surface more accurately than any other method to date. Moreover, modeling the complex subsurface still poses more challenges. The work of Jie and Xianhuai has inspired many researchers to strive to develop methods for accurate modeling of the subsurface.
Jie received his bachelor’s degree in geophysics (1986) from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), his master’s in geophysics (1991) from Penn State, and his PhD in geophysics (1996) from MIT. Jie joined the Earth Resources Lab at MIT in 1992 and began to work on methods for near-surface imaging with balanced effort in both fieldwork and theoretical development. During weekends, he conducted refraction surveys at a dozen of sites in New England. In 1994, Jie took one semester off from MIT and went to Antarctica as a USGS contractor to design and execute 200-km refraction profiles for crustal structure imaging. He was the only representative from US to participate and manage a large international project with partners from three other countries. The Antarctic experience inspired him to develop an algorithm for refraction imaging, and later a career in near-surface imaging. When he developed nonlinear refraction traveltime tomography, he looked into “apparent slowness” and “average slowness” in the traveltime, and fitted not just traveltime, but also physically meaningful shapes of traveltime curves in 2D and traveltime surfaces in 3D.
While applying the method to numerous data sets, Jie continued to improve the refraction imaging technology for better results under the supervision of Nafi Toksöz at MIT. These include nonlinear refraction and reflection traveltime tomography, joint seismic wavefront traveltime tomography and migration, and joint seismic and electrical tomography. These refraction-related imaging methods were presented in 8 of his 20 publications while in graduate school. At the same time, he worked with several other faculty members at MIT and completed and published many projects in earthquake seismology, electrical methods, and environmental and engineering geophysics.
When Jie founded GeoTomo in 1998 in Colorado, he had a clear vision — helping the seismic industry to address the near-surface problems. The GeoTomo team under Jie’s supervision developed integrated near-surface imaging solutions, including conventional delay-time, nonlinear traveltime tomography, early arrival waveform tomography, and joint seismic and gravity inversion.
Not only has the near-surface solution range been extended over the years, but Jie’s refraction imaging method has addressed many significant problems along the way: automatic geometry corrections, large data problems, methods for quality control, iterative picking and imaging process, and refraction interferometric imaging. Today, the near-surface technology developed by Jie’s team at GeoTomo is now being used worldwide for near-surface modeling.
In 2009, Jie began to make plans for his academic career. He taught a graduate course on near-surface geophysics at MIT and Stanford, and inspired several students in their research work. In 2011, Jie returned to China, and is directly supervising a group of 15 graduate students with research focused on near-surface imaging, particularly on waveform tomography. The SEG Reginald Fessenden Award is a testimony to his scientific accomplishments.