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. Jie Zhang also contributes to the Society as SEG Trustee Associate, chair of the SEG China Advisory Committee, and service on the Board of Directors for SEG Global, Inc.
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.
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.