Nishank Saxena

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Nishank Saxena
Nishank Saxena headshot 2016.png
PhD Geophysics
PhD university Stanford University

SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award 2016

Nishank Saxena has published 11 papers on rock physics in peer-reviewed international journals as first author and contributed as coauthor to another seven papers. Moreover, he published and contributed to 12 conference proceedings. Some of Saxena’s previous recognitions include:

  • Top 30 paper award in 2012
  • Schlumberger scholarship
  • P.K. Bhattacharya Award in 2008
  • Silver medal from the Indian Institute of Technology in 2008


Biography Citation for the SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award 2016

By Gary Mavko

One of my greatest pleasures at Stanford University is the opportunity to work with the many brilliant young people who enter the program as graduate students, and eventually leave as accomplished scientists. Nishank Saxena was one of the best.

Nishank joined my group in 2009 when he was admitted to our PhD program in geophysics. He was awarded the prestigious Manus R. Foster Fellowship at Stanford, based on his prior impressive academic and work credentials. While at Stanford, Nishank made extraordinary contributions toward the advancement of both theoretical and computational aspects of rock physics. Even more impressive has been his ability to apply these mathematical solutions to develop practical and innovative tools to build quantitative links between seismic properties and changes in mineralogy and pore-fill material. He graduated in 2014 with an MS and a PhD in geophysics. He now works as a geoscientist at the Shell Technology Center in Houston, Texas.

Although it has been less than two years since earning his degree, Nishank has already authored 18 high-quality peer-reviewed papers. He also has presented more than a dozen research papers at international conferences and meetings. Nishank’s research has not only greatly influenced current academic research in the field of rock physics, but also has significantly impacted many practitioners in the oil and gas industry.

One particularly impactful discovery that Nishank published was the exact equations for the change in elastic properties of rock resulting from substitution of either solid or liquid in the pore space — a long-sought extension of Gassmann’s fluid substitution equations. He showed, for the first time, how we can predict the seismic velocity and attenuation changes resulting from replacing water with high-viscosity fluids, or from precipitating a solid phase, such as salt or calcite, into the pore space. He successfully applied the method to predict how seismic waves traveling through heavy-oil reservoirs carry information about the in-situ temperature and pressure conditions. This innovative solution forms the basis of the best-known rock physics practice for monitoring heavy-oil reservoirs using time-lapse seismic data.

Nishank also showed the symmetry of his equations, which allows us to predict the change in seismic signature associated with a change in mineralogy. One important application is understanding the relation between seismic VP and VS for different lithologies, which are typically quantified empirically. His theoretical predictor allows us to see how much of the lithology dependence of VP/VS results from mineralogy, and how much results from pore-space microgeometry. Nishank also generalized Biot-Gassmann equations for rocks that change in pore shape due to a variety of geochemical processes. This work has tremendous potential for modeling time-lapse seismic signatures of the subsurface movement of chemically reactive CO2 due to possible changes in the rock frame.

Nishank also pioneered the work on generating benchmarks for the digital rock physics (DRP) technology. Many professionals in the oil and gas industry actively use the papers he published.

Through his passion, creativity, and good nature, Nishank Saxena has helped to raise the bar in rock-physics research. I believe that, with Nishank and others of his generation, the future of geophysics is in good hands. I think it is fitting that SEG has recognized him with the SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award.