Michael Zhdanov

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Michael Zhdanov
Michael Zhdanov headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member

SEG Honorary Membership 2013 [1]

Michael Zhdanov has contributed in the following fields: 3D electromagnetic modeling, electromagnetic migration, electromagnetic inversion, 3D inversion of airborne EM data, 3D inversion of gravity gradient tensor component data, effective-medium theory of induced polarization, and 3D inversion of marine CSEM and magnetotelluric data. He pioneered methods of 3D inversion of geophysical data and demonstrated how principles of migration, as formulated for seismic methods, can be extended to electromagnetic and potential fields. His contributions are reflected in more than 100 articles in SEG publications, 16 books and 12 patents. He is the founding director of the Geoelectromagnetic Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Science. He is currently a University of Utah professor and director of the Consortium for Electromagnetic Modeling and Inversion (CEMI), founder and CEO of TechoImaging.

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 2013

Contributed by Leon Thomsen

The Honors and Awards Committee itself deserves commendation for recognizing the outstanding intellectual contributions of Michael Zhdanov to our profession (300+ refereed publications, 16 books, 12 patents, 3 languages, 60+ graduate students mentored). The highlights of this impressive body of work are listed at the top of this page. However, perhaps more important than the sheer volume of these contributions, is their quality, and their character. Let me concentrate here on the latter. We geophysicists, unhappily, too often isolate ourselves in disciplinary silos. Think of the many seismic experts who fail to appreciate the contributions of other geophysical disciplines in the search for hydrocarbons and minerals. (Sven Treitel tells the story of visiting an Amoco district office, and asking whether they used potential fields data on any of their prospects. He was told, “Oh no! We only do geophysics here!”) Of course, seismics is the best single tool for exploration, but there are many contexts where other tools can make an essential complement to seismics, and exploitation of this synergy can greatly improve the effectiveness of exploration technology. These tools might be called “nonseismic geophysics”, but a better label is “the rest of geophysics.” Just to illustrate the point, consider the divide between seismics and electromagnetics. In the deep subsurface, seismic waves and electromagnetic waves propagate following different laws of physics (the equation of motion, and the diffusion equation, respectively), and this has historically lead to widely divergent techniques of data acquisition and analysis. In particular, seismic data are migrated (forming images of subsurface geometry), whereas EM data are inverted (for the subsurface distribution of physical properties).

Enter Michael Zhdanov, one of the world’s preeminent leaders in using EM to explore for hydrocarbons and minerals. But, rather than building higher silos, Michael builds longer bridges, in this instance teaching us all how to migrate EM data, seismic style. Migration, rather than inversion, can be important because it is more robust to complexity of the subsurface than is inversion. (For example, if the subsurface is anisotropic, that will not be found by inversion for the distribution of isotropic physical properties.) And, migration is less sensitive than inversion to errors in data acquisition. So Michael’s insight is a wonderful unification, one that, by itself, might justify recognizing him as an SEG Honorary Member, even without the enormous lifetime body of work cited above. Here is another example of Michael Zhdanov’s bridge-building. EM experts in the West use deep EM soundings to search for resistivity anomalies, and they find them. By contrast, EM experts in Russia use deep EM soundings to search for induced polarization anomalies instead, and they find them. But, surely the laws of physics do not respect national boundaries; these different preconceptions must be vestiges of prior teaching traditions, in each region. Zhdanov has published on both sides of this debate, helping colleagues in both regions to see the merit in the others’ tradition. Here is another example. Just as deep as the seismic-

EM divide is the gravity-EM divide. History and physics have driven experts in these fields in separate directions. But, here again, Michael Zhdanov has found a way to use deep mathematical similarities in the underlying physics to bring his EM expertise to advance the theory and practice of gravity gradiometry. So today, SEG has honored Michael Zhdanov, the bridge-builder. He builds bridges with solid foundations on both sides, and sturdy construction in between.

We need more bridges like these, and fewer silos, as we confront the new challenges of the 21st century. In particular, the development of shale resources requires new thinking, and many new bridges, not only between the geoscience disciplines, but also to the engineering disciplines as well. We would all do well to follow the example set by Michael Zhdanov.

Biography 2010

Michael S. Zhdanov holds degrees in geophysics, physics and mathematics from the Gubkin State University of Oil and Gas, and Moscow State University. He is a full professor in the Department of Geology and Geo physics at The University of Utah, Director of the Consortium for Electromagnet- ic Modeling and Inversion, and CEO of TechnoImaging. He was previously Director of the Geoelectromagnetic Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Deputy Director of the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is an Honorary Gauss Professor of the Gettingen Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Fellow of the Electromagnetics Academy USA, and Honorary Professor of the China National Cen- tre for Geological Exploration Technology.


  1. Honors & Awards Program 4:30–5:30 p.m., Sunday 22 September 2013 George R. Brown Convention Center Level 3, George Bush Grand Ballroom Houston, Texas USA Society of Exploration GeophysicistsInternational Exposition and Eighty-Third Annual Meeting