Paul Sava

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Paul Sava
Paul Sava headshot.jpg
Latest company Colorado School of Mines
BSc Engineering Geophysics
MSc Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university University of Bucharest
MSc university Stanford University
PhD university Stanford University

'Paul Constantin Sava' is the C.H. Green Chair of Exploration Geophysics and Director of the Center for Wave Phenomena at Colorado School of Mines. His main research interests are in wavefield seismic imaging, stochastic imaging and inversion, computational methods for wave propagation, numeric optimization and high performance computing. [1]

Paul is famous for his work on angle-domain wave equation common-image gathers. During the last five years, wave-equation migration has become a powerful and universally acceptable tool for prestack depth imaging. Although this approach to depth imaging has been known theoretically for some time, a major practical hurdle has been an inability to derive velocity information from the process. This problem was addressed by Paul and coauthors by introducing common image gathers in the angle-domain. As a result of this pioneering work, so-called wave-equation migration has become a standard commercial tool that is used to solve complex imaging problems such as found in subsalt plays.

He is a recipient of a Stanford Graduate Fellowship (1997-2000) from Stanford University and of a Jackson Young Scientist Fellowship (2006-2007) from the University of Texas (Austin). He is also a recipient of three Awards of Merit for best student presentations at the SEG conventions (1999, 2001 and 2004), and received the 2007 SEG Reginald Fessenden Award for his work on wave-equation angle-domain imaging.

Paul and Sergey Fomel received 2003 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for their paper Angle-domain common-image gathers by wavefield continuation methods. [2]

He served as Education Officer on the EAGE Board from 2012-2016, and currently serves as Chair of the EAGE Student Fund Board.

Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by Alexander Mihai Popovici

Receiving this award is remarkable for a geophysicist in his mid-thirties, although not a surprise to those who have followed his work over the past ten years. The only similar accomplishment seems that of Jon Claerbout, who received the same award in 1973. What an appropriate correlation, since Paul was Jon’s student at the Stanford Exploration Project. Paul grew up in Romania and was exposed to geophysics from an early age. His father Constantin Sava is a well-known Romanian geophysicist, chair of several international SEG/EAGE conferences, and an energetic promoter of geophysics in Romania. Paul graduated from the University of Bucharest in 1995 and applied to Stanford University. He contacted me, a fellow Romanian coming out of Stanford, about the admission process. I contacted a professor at Bucharest, Paul Georgescu, to find out about Paul.

He told me that Paul (and Paul’s wife, Diana) were the best students in their generation, and that Stanford would be lucky to have them. Paul received the prestigious Stanford Graduate Fellowship and became a student in Claerbout’s SEP group.

Paul used to come to my house to discuss the areas that needed advanced research, from multiples attenuation to migration velocity analysis. Paul’s expertise extended from migration velocity analysis and angle-domain commonimage gathers construction using wavefield extrapolation techniques, to the development of Riemannian wavefield extrapolation, from image-space multiple attenuation, to amplitude-preserving imaging, fast residual migration, and traveltime computation. He worked initially under Biondo Biondi and collaborated with another brilliant young geophysicist at SEP, Sergey Fomel. One of their first projects was research on Huygens wavefront ray tracing, a new method for one-point ray tracing based on describing wavefronts with a system of partial differential equations (as opposed to ordinary differential equations), that leads to a robust numerical implementation. The method and code became widely used in seismic exploration and by global seismologists. Next, the team generated a new method for constructing angle gathers from the output of prestack wave equation migration. This important advance allows migration velocity analysis using wave-equation imaging.

Paul then worked with Sergey on seismic one-way extrapolation that uses coordinate systems other than the Cartesian grid. This Riemannian wave extrapolation allows imaging steeply dipping and overturning reflections in complex geology. He continued working on Riemannian extrapolation after he joined Sergey at the Bureau of Economic Geology. The method is actively studied by research groups. For his thesis, Paul tackled a very important and complex problem in reflection seismology: migration velocity analysis using the full wave equation. Only someone as brilliant and hardworking could have achieved so much in a limited time.

He opened many avenues for further research. This work may continue for several years and is very important for seismic velocity estimation.

Paul’s recent work as a faculty member at Colorado School of Mines includes developing innovative imaging methodology for wave-equation imaging of single and multicomponent data. An exciting project concerns imaging in media with rapid unknown velocity fluctuations, which degrade the migrated images even when using the most sophisticated techniques. Paul’s method reduces imaging artifacts in these complex situations and produces cleaner images.

While at Stanford, Paul served as director for Casa Romana[1], a nonprofit organization serving Americans of Romanian origin in the San Francisco area, which was building the largest Romanian community center and church on the west coast. The project raised US$1.2 million, accomplished its goals, and was dedicated by the president of Romania, another geophysicist.

Paul has photographed his daughter, Iulia Victoria, every week of her life and assembled them in chronological order on his computer. Such tenacity would drive most women crazy, but Diana, who received her Ph.D. in geophysics from Stanford the same year as Paul (though she started two years later and graduated two months earlier), is completely sympathetic to his eccentricities. I predict that Paul will change our industry and run out of SEG medals and awards before he retires.

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