John Castagna

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John Castagna
John Castagna headshot.png
Latest company University of Houston
BSc Geology
MSc Geochemistry
PhD Exploration Geophysics
BSc university Brooklyn College
MSc university Brooklyn College
PhD university University of Texas at Austin

John P. Castagna is a Professor of Geophysics and the Sheriff Chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science at the University of Houston [1]. He was awarded the 2005 Reginald Fessenden Award, along with Matthew L. Greenberg, for their work in shear-wave velocity estimation in porous rocks. AVO modeling and its successful application to exploration programs are directly related to the timely publication of the article “Shear-wave velocity estimation in porous rocks: Theoretical formulation, preliminary verification, and applications” in Geophysical Prospecting. [2]. The Greenberg and Castagna technique has withstood years of close scrutiny by being compared to both wireline and laboratory measurements. In fact, it is not uncommon to utilize this shear-wave estimation technique even when in-situ S-wave logs are available. Their peers rank this work with the most important contributions to the field.

Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award 2005

Contributed by Robert W. Siegfried II

When I reported for my first day of work in the oil and gas industry, at ARCO’s research lab in Plano, Texas, I was advised that a grad student would be arriving the following day to work under my supervision for the summer. Feeling somewhat unqualified to provide such supervision, I was very relieved when John arrived the next day and it was clear that direction from me was not among his requirements. John has been forging his own path ever since, much to the benefit of our profession and our industry.

John was introduced to geophysics by Peter Bell, who arranged for the promising kid from Brooklyn to visit the Carnegie Institute of Geophysics a few times during his undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College. Showing remarkable wisdom, John chose to pursue graduate studies at the University of Texas under the tutelage of Milo Backus, where he obtained a thorough grounding in exploration geophysics and signal processing. Perhaps more importantly, John reports that Professor Backus “infected me with his love for geophysics and showed me how to find simplicity in apparent complexity.” Finding simplicity in apparent complexity has been a hallmark of John’s contributions to our field.

That initial summer job at ARCO evolved into a 15-year career. During the early part of John’s ARCO days, the logging and rock physics research activities were all part of a research effort aimed toward finding ways to use laboratory and log data to improve the quantitative interpretation of seismic data. John realized the promise of the ability to predict seismic velocities and worked with Mike Batzle and Ray Eastwood to develop systematic relationships between compressional and shear velocities in clastic silicates. The fact that it might be possible to distill the bewildering array of measurements and models relating velocities to rock composition, structure, and fluid saturation into a few usable relationships represents a significant (and successful) application of the desire to find simplicity in apparent complexity. The fact that such relationships might prove valuable represents an insight that did not seem intuitively obvious at the time.

The work for which John and Matt Greenberg are being recognized with the Reginald Fessenden Award represents an effort to provide a solid experimental and theoretical foundation for the prediction of shear-wave velocities in porous sedimentary rocks. While earlier work may have pointed the way, the Castagna and Greenberg approach provides the basis through which shear velocities can be predicted with sufficient confidence to be used in the modeling and interpretation of AVO results.

After his technical contributions were recognized, John was given the opportunity to try his hand at research management in Plano. He eventually proved too smart for that opportunity, and wangled an assignment in an exploration group in Houston, where he obtained some real experience with the application of the methods that he had been developing. Armed with enough exploration experience to be dangerous, he proceeded to positions at HARC, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Houston, some of which were held concurrently. He currently serves on the geophysics faculty at the University of Houston. John founded Fusion Geophysical in 2000 to provide a vehicle for the development and commercialization of advanced interpretation technologies. Through his work at Fusion and the University of Houston, John continues to apply the most advanced geophysical thinking to the solution of real-world seismic interpretation problems. I am very pleased to see him recognized through this important award, and extend my heartiest congratulations.

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