Roel Snieder

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Roel Snieder
Roel Snieder color headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member
BSc Theoretical Physical
MSc Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university Utrecht University, Netherlands
MSc university Princeton University
PhD university Utrecht University, Netherlands

Roel Snieder holds the W.M. Keck Distinguished Chair of Professional Development Education at the Colorado School of Mines [1]. In 1984, he received in a Master's degree in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics from Princeton University and in 1987 a PhD in seismology from Utrecht University.

In 1993 he was appointed as Professor of Seismology at Utrecht University, where from 1997–2000 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Earth Sciences. Roel served on the editorial boards of Geophysical Journal International, Inverse Problems Journal, Reviews of Geophysics, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and the European Journal of Physics. In 2000 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. In 2011 he was elected as Honorary Member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and in 2014 he received a research award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2016 Roel received the Beno Gutenberg Medal from the European Geophysical Union and the Outstanding Educator Award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. In 2020, he received the Ange Melagro Prize for his outstanding class Science and Spirituality.

His contributions have been in seismic interferometry, mathematical geophysics, education, and public awareness. He publishes broadly and has more than 200 publications, 75 as first author and 68 in SEG journals. Roel is also the author of the two books: A Guided Tour of Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences and The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors (with Ken Larner). Roel has published in the following fields: seismic interferometry, surface-wave reconstruction, scattering theory, modeling nuclear waste storage tunnels, controlled source EM interferometry, acoustic-wave and EM diffusion equations, Green’s function, education and outreach in geophysics, uncertainty analysis, multidimensional deconvolution, potential field interferometry, imaging internal multiples from VSP, shear-wave splitting, microearthquake data, time-lapse monitoring, virtual-source acquisition geometry, and synthetic aperture sources. He has been affiliated with Stanford, Utrecht, and Princeton universities.

Honors and Awards

  • In 2016 Snieder received the SEG Outstanding Educator Award for his commitment over the past decade to use his talents to educate a new generation of thinking public.
  • In 2016 Snieder received the Beno Gutenberg Medal from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in recognition of "his outstanding contributions to the theoretical foundations of modern methods of seismic imaging."[2]
  • In 2014 Sneider received the prestigious von Humboldt Award for his lifelong achievements in the field of earthquake seismology and exploration seismology.

2022 SEG-AAPG Distinguished Lecturer

Measuring variations in the seismic velocity as a diagnostic of rock damage and healing

Interferometric methods in seismology have made it possible to detect time-lapse changes in the seismic velocity with an accuracy of about 0.1%. Combined with using noise as a seismic source it is under the right conditions possible to detect such velocity changes on a near-continuous basis. I will show examples of detecting velocity changes in the laboratory, the earth's near-surface, and engineered structures. Perhaps surprisingly, the seismic velocity is not constant at all, it varies with the seasons, temperature, precipitation, and ground shaking. One of the intriguing observations is that after deformation the seismic velocity recovers logarithmically with time. The reason for this particular time dependence is the presence of healing mechanisms that operate on different time scales. Since multi-scale relaxation is a feature of many physical systems, logarithmic healing is a widespread behavior that is akin in its generality to the Gutenberg-Richter law.

Graphic1 Snieder.png

Additional Resource

A recording of the lecture is available.[3]

SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2016 [4]

Roel Snieder is remarkable in his commitment over the past decade to use his talents to educate a new generation of thinking public. He lectures not only students in universities but also people from local companies and international industry, public clubs, societies, schools, and in any other public forum on issues concerning the art of science, future energy portfolios, and how the public can interact and engage to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. His approach is enshrined within presentations that he has made available on his website, through which he has established a community of educators who spread his approach across the world.

Biography Citation for the SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2016

By Filippo Broggini, Andrew Curtis, Iker Madera, and Jen Schneider

Roel Snieder is unique in that he gives others permission to bring their “whole selves” into their work — both by example and explicitly through his teaching. For example, while teaching a graduate geophysics class, he began an animated discussion of Viktor E. Frankl’s foundational text Man’s Search for Meaning. Students were so intrigued that he secured copies of the book for them and hosted a reading group so they could discuss it. One of his students noted that, as a keen, observant person, Roel seamlessly intertwines the inquiries of science with the mysteries of human experience and emphasizes the value of achieving scientific proficiency as well as spiritual wellbeing. The book club that he organizes every semester has become a favorite activity among students who come together to share ideas and experiences.

Roel recognized a similar hunger for connection among his colleagues at the Colorado School of Mines. He used his position and professional funds to create a yearly reading group on campus that provided books and brought together dozens of members of the campus community to discuss topics as varied as cognitive learning styles, time management, social justice, and spirituality in the workplace. Such initiatives undoubtedly work to change the culture of our institutions by creating opportunities for people to come together and express parts of themselves that, in traditional workspaces, normally remain hidden. Undergraduate students in geophysics at the Colorado School of Mines have spoken of the privilege of being students of Roel’s. His lessons are full of examples, anecdotes, and the occasional bad joke (which often still achieves the intended goal of making the class laugh). He is dedicated to making sure that the material being taught is understood, and he continually tries different approaches and examples to explain concepts.

One undergraduate wrote the following: “The knowledge I have gained under Roel's tutelage extends beyond the theory of math and physics. He first saw the potential in me and in my ability not only to keep up but to achieve – even before I did – and with a little advice, patience, and encouragement, he has made me see it too. I’m thankful and fortunate to have such a kind, accomplished person as professor and advisor. Just like the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince who says, ‘One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye,’ Roel reminds me that in the path of science one must have a ready mind but, just as importantly, a ready heart, because this is where the scientific ideas that will impact the world in a positive way originate.”

Of course, over the past 30 years, Roel has also made major contributions to modern seismology, providing the theoretical foundation for many of its research fields. At the beginning of his academic career, he coauthored influential papers on the application of the Born approximation to perturbation theory for seismic surface-wave propagation, which paved the way for the use of sensitivity kernels for finite-frequency tomography.

Roel also has been heavily involved in the development of more modern methodologies in seismic imaging, such as seismic interferometry and Marchenko focusing. Together with some of his students, he demonstrated the potential of cross correlations and deconvolution applied to passive- and active-source wavefields for time-lapse analysis, building response retrieval, and imaging, which led to the publication of essential works on these topics.

However, this award is for teaching, and in that, in 2016, he is unsurpassed. We hope he will continue to educate, stimulate, make people reflect, and encourage for many years to come.

"Roel Sneider, 2011"

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 2011

Contributed by Kees Wapenaar and Jerry Schuster

Roel Snieder’s career in exploration geophysics spans only a decade, so he is not a “typical” SEG Honorary Membership recipient. However, he has a tremendous record of innovative research in the broader field of geophysics and has built important bridges between earthquake seismology and exploration geophysics. Add to that his excellent mentoring of students, his education of the public about the global energy challenge and his pleasant way of cooperating with other scientists and you get a glimpse of the accomplishments of this distinguished geoscientist.

Roel also has excellent skills in bringing existing research areas to a higher level, which often leads to unexpected new directions. As an example we mention the research field on time-reversed acoustics, initiated by Professor Fink and colleagues at Paris VII which received a lot of attention in the 1990s. During Roel’s sabbatical at Colorado School of Mines in 1997, he analyzed this methodology (together with John Scales), explained the stability of acoustic time-reversal in complex media, and published his findings in Physical Review E. The insights gained with this analysis led to the idea that the stability of multiple-wave scattering in complex media can be used to monitor minute changes in medium parameters with coda-wave interferometry. He published this in a, by now, classic paper in Science in 2002. In hindsight the idea may seem simple, but it required deep understanding of the physics of wave propagation in strongly scattering media to arrive at this methodology. This example represents the style of Roel’s research. Be it on wave scattering, inversion or seismic interferometry, his deep physical insight has always guided him to move the frontiers of knowledge in a specific area forward and to propose entirely new directions.

Roel joined the Center for Wave Phenomena at CSM in 2000, where he started a number of new research lines, such as the earlier mentioned coda-wave interferometry with applications in time-lapse seismic, fault analysis with reflected waves, multiscale seismic imaging, passive monitoring and localization of microseismic events and, last but not least, seismic interferometry in which he has been very productive.

This started with a paper in Physical Review E in 2004, in which he explained the underlying physics of seismic interferometry and shed light on the conditions under which it can work. This is one of the pioneering papers in the field and has become a citation classic. In the following years, he proposed ideas and applications which demonstrated the great potential of seismic interferometry. With this work he did not only build a bridge between global seismology and exploration geophysics, but he also made interesting links to other fields of physics, such as the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, and the generalized optical theorem. His research results have been published in highly rated journals, including recent overview papers in Physics Today.

As important are his contributions in educating students in the art of scientific research and teaching. His book The Art of Being a Scientist (coauthor Ken Larner) contains advice of great benefit to young researchers and is widely praised by both students and professionals. In addition, Roel has presented the lecture “The Global Energy Challenge” at many universities, community colleges, and high schools. Roel seeks to make this world a better place, and he is continually striving to do this on many fronts: scholarship, teaching, community and family.

We feel honored to write this citation. Roel is one of the most well balanced and highest achieving scientists that we have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He might even be having more influence on the training of our young geophysicists than any professor today. [5]


  1. Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines: Faculty
  2. European Geosciences Union: Awards and Medals
  4. SEG Honors and Awards Ceremony, SEG Dallas 18 October 2016, Omni Dallas Hotel, Dallas Ballroom, International Exposition and Eighty-Sixth Annual Meeting, Dallas, Tx, p, 8.
  5. SEG Honors and Awards Program, SEG Annual Meeting, 20 September 2011 Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, Texas USA.

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