Rosemary Knight

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Rosemary Knight
Rosemary Knight 2017 headshot.png
Membership Life Member

Rosemary Knight has served the Society as second vice president (2001–2002), as distinguished lecturer (2004), and as liaison to AGU. She is a stalwart figure in the near-surface geophysics community, and the chair of one of the most distinguished academic programs in geophysics. She helped to organize the 2008 SEG Forum on “Managing Our Groundwater Resources for the Future” and is a past member of the TLE Editorial Board.

SEG Maurice Ewing Medal Award 2021 [1]

Rosemary Knight, previously awarded SEG Life Membership (2009) and the Outstanding Educator Award (2017), and selected as the SEG Distinguished Lecturer (1998) and the Near-Surface Geophysics Distinguished Lecturer (2019), pushed the envelope on the use of near-surface geophysics through her leadership in defining the new field of hydrogeophysics. She has made fundamental contributions across a wide range of scales, spanning basic research in laboratory-scale rock physics to applied, societally-relevant, watershed-scale research.

Rosemary has been a pioneer in the study of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), developing innovative applications for groundwater and contaminant hydrology. Following the outlook mirrored in her other areas of research, her approach has emphasized addressing the most fundamental aspects of NMR measurements and their interpretation. In addition to the immediate impacts of her discoveries, her focus on fundamentals has built a robust foundation that has allowed others to further advance this methodology. With her passion for “knowledge into action,” there is no clearer evidence of the impact that Rosemary has had on the profession of geophysics than the instrumental role she has played in the recent decision by the state to acquire airborne electromagnetic data to support sustainable groundwater management throughout California.

Biography Citation for the SEG Maurice Ewing Medal Award 2021

by Louise Pellerin and Carlos Torres-Verdín

For many, Professor Rosemary Knight is the undisputed mother of hydrogeophysics. Those of us who have the pleasure and honor of knowing her have been inspired by her insightful, thorough, and original work. Her theoretical and applied research has left an indelible mark in the way groundwater resources are explored and managed nowadays. Rosemary’s projects with students, postdoctoral fellows, and colleagues have approached laboratory studies, instrumentation, field work, and interpretation in holistic ways that not only pioneered new approaches in hydrogeophysics but also linked the science to societal benefits. She is a gifted and dedicated scientist who is also a dexterous speaker who can engage other scientists, engineers, politicians, government officials, and the public. Her attention to detail and standard of excellence are apparent in everything she does from lecturing her students at Stanford University on the physical properties of the subsurface at the laboratory scale, or when advising State of California officials on the critical role geophysics can play in groundwater management.

Rosemary is a visionary. In the mid-1980s, she gave inception to the field of hydrogeophysics, adopting the term to describe the use of geophysical methods to image and quantify near-surface hydrogeologic properties and processes. Since that time, the relatively young subdiscipline of hydrogeophysics has seen marvelous, uninterrupted growth and interest within the “parent” disciplines of near-surface geophysics and hydrology, and she has been the harbinger of much of this growth. Rosemary, widely recognized as a world-leader in the field, has worked with her research group and other collaborators, to continually explore and reveal new ways in which geophysical measurements can be used to study and characterize hydrogeologic systems. Through these efforts, Rosemary’s research group has been responsible for the development of innovative methods for using geophysical imaging for hydrologic applications, with a current focus on groundwater science and management.

She has kept her laboratory busy by undertaking basic research of rock properties while attracting collaborations from around the world in methods as diverse as borehole geophysics, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and helicopter-borne time-domain electromagnetics, always with the vision of imaging the groundwater regime and tying those images to basic properties and processes.

Rosemary’s work has not only impacted the science of geophysics, through her many publications and conference presentations, but also the profession, through her deep commitment to “knowledge into action,” as evidenced by her outreach activities and partnerships, and through her gifted mentoring and advising of the next generation of academic and practicing geophysicists. Her papers in many cases are breakthroughs in our understanding of the link between geophysical measurements and hydrogeologic properties and processes. One specific example is the development of new impactful methods for the interpretation of NMR measurements of saturated sediments.

Rosemary exemplifies the leadership and everlasting influence in applied geophysics that are at the heart of the Maurice Ewing Gold Medal through distinguished contributions both to the advancement of the science and to the profession of exploration geophysics. She possesses a combination of passion, clarity, warmth, style, and sincerity that is rare in science and that provides an outstanding example to her students and colleagues, the near-surface geophysics community, and the public. Rosemary, an active SEG member and leader who has provided substantial service to our professional society and who has advanced the role of applied geophysics for the betterment of our world and society, defines and revitalizes the very essence of SEG’s Maurice Ewing Medal. And in so doing, she has transcended as the very first woman to be at the top of SEG’s award list.

SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2017

Rosemary Knight is a professor at Stanford University where she is widely recognized as someone who cares about the personal welfare of students and postdoctoral scholars, as well as their scientific success. She is an example of excellent mentoring and advising. Knight has infused students with an enthusiastic love for geophysics, focusing on the environment and near-surface geophysics. Her long list of awards and compliments are a testament to her dedication and excellence as an educator.


Biography Citation for SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2017 [2]

by Elliot Grunewald, Kristina Keating, Stephen Moysey, Andrew Parsekian, and Kamini Singha

Rosemary Knight is the George L. Harrington Professor in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University where her research is focused on near- surface geophysics. Rosemary has formally supervised more than 27 graduate students and eight postdoctoral scholars, and she has influenced many more through the informal mentoring and inspiration that she has provided over the years. It is notable that eight of her 15 PhD students have continued in academia, with many others holding influential roles in industry. She has been appreciated not just for the science she does, but also for her teaching, mentoring, and advising excellence. Rosemary particularly excels at collaborating with students and infusing them with a love for geophysics.

Former graduate students have highlighted her importance to them, with some familiar themes. One student said, “Rosemary has, without question, been the most important and formative influence in my career as a scientist.” Another had similar feedback: “I can say without reservation that working as a student with Dr. Knight reshaped my view of the world and not only allowed me to become a geophysicist, but also made me a better hydrologist and better person as well.” A third student noted, “Throughout my doctoral degree, Rosemary was a constant source of motivation and support. She was encouraging when there was a new experiment that I wanted to try and, when I hit roadblocks in my research, she helped me find different ways of looking at a problem. Despite the fact that she was chairing the department of geophysics, serving on the university’s budget committee, developing the I-Earth course series, and chairing the AGU Near-Surface Geophysics Focus Group, Rosemary never failed to take the time to talk about my research progress and show enthusiasm for my project. ... Rosemary’s unequivocal support was instrumental in convincing me to follow in her footsteps.”

Rosemary is not only interested in graduate education but also has pushed Stanford to be a leader in undergraduate education. Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore dean of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, said of Rosemary: “She has also conceived and led a major initiative at Stanford University to enhance education in the area of earth and environmental sciences. In the I-Earth initiative (Introduction to Planet Earth), Rosemary led an effort that identified or created a selection of courses designed to provide undergraduates with an understanding of how earth works — in particular how humans interact with their resource and environmental systems. The I-Earth byline — ‘not yet a requirement for Stanford.... already a requirement for life’ — communicates not only the importance of the subject matter, but Rosemary’s commitment to ensure that all college students understand something about the planet that we share.”

Beyond her contributions to the next generation of scientists, Rosemary has also pushed the envelope on the use of near-surface geophysics to solve environmental problems. She is perhaps best known for her contributions in two areas: rock physics on partially saturated samples and, more recently, developing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) as a reliable groundwater characterization method. With respect to NMR, Rosemary has been a pioneer in defining this field and developing imaginative applications of the technique. Following the outlook mirrored in her other fields of research, Rosemary’s approach to training students in NMR has emphasized addressing the most fundamental (and often most poorly understood) aspects of the NMR response. In addition to the immediate impacts of her discoveries in NMR, her focus on fundamentals has built a robust foundation that has allowed others in the hydrogeophysical community to further advance this methodology.

Rosemary has said that we all need to be “a positive force for change.” It is clear that she has accomplished this by injecting the next generation of near-surface geophysicists with enthusiasm and curiosity and motivating them through the challenges of research. The sum of all of these examples demonstrates how Rosemary has been a consistent inspiration to the next generation of geophysical scientists.


"Rosemary Knight, 2009"

Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership 2009

Contributed by Klaus Holliger

It is an honor and a pleasure to write this citation for Professor Rosemary Knight. I have known Rosemary and closely followed her work and career since the early 1990s when both of us started branching out into the emerging field of near-surface geophysics. A key characteristic of Rosemary’s scientific activity has always been its interdisciplinary nature reflecting her determination not only to push the frontiers of her own research domain, but to transcend the borders between disciplines.

With regard to the latter, she has demonstrated a unique capability of bringing researchers from different fields together and fostering collaborations that initially appeared to be as unlikely and unconventional, as they proved to be fruitful in the end. Rosemary’s undisputed excellence in research finds its natural reflection in an impressive publication record and a stellar academic career, which was recently crowned by her promotion to an endowed chair at Stanford University.

Rosemary has been an SEG member since 1987 and, as she once pointed out in a passionate contribution to TLE’s “President’s Page,” she always considered SEG to be her “home” Society. In addition to the offices and awards mentioned in the preceding citation by the Honors and Awards Committee, Rosemary was a founding member of SEG’s Near-Surface Geophysics Section, served as one of its first vice presidents, and received its Frank Frischknecht leadership award. She also served on the editorial board of The Leading Edge, organized the 2006 Research Workshop on Hydrogeophysics (arguably the first such event sponsored by SEG outside its original core domain of exploration geophysics), and initiated the collaboration between SEG and AGU in the field of near-surface geophysics, one of the few truly successful and harmonious collaborations between major scientific societies I can think of.

Rosemary started her academic career as a petrophysicist studying the electrical and seismic properties of porous sedimentary rocks at various levels of saturation using both laboratory experiments as well as theoretical considerations. Many of the publications from this first part of her career are now regarded as classic references and are correspondingly well cited. In the early 1990s, Rosemary gradually began diversifying her research interests into near-surface geophysics. She rapidly acquainted herself with the pertinent problems as well as with the techniques for addressing them. At the same time, she continued her petrophysical research, albeit with a gradual shift of emphasis from topics related to hydrocarbon exploration toward those related to environmental and hydrological problems. It is the broad and inherently interdisciplinary background in petrophysics that rapidly gave Rosemary an edge and allowed her to be simultaneously and successfully active in multiple domains ranging, for example, from ground-penetrating radar to nuclear magnetic resonance studies. In my view, Rosemary’s entry into near-surface geophysics and her scientific contributions were instrumental in defining and shaping this emerging field and for pushing it to the recognition and growth it enjoys today.

Arguably as valuable and important as Rosemary’s scientific contributions are her dedication and service to SEG and to our community at large. Her genuine enthusiasm and spontaneity, her brilliant communication skills, and her winning, nondivisive personality, in conjunction with her undisputed scientific prowess, have made her a natural leader and a true role model. It therefore gives me great satisfaction that SEG bestows this honor upon Professor Rosemary Knight in recognition of her accomplishments as a scientist and educator and, arguably most importantly, for her exemplary and selfless service. In our field, I simply cannot think of any other candidate who might deserve this distinction more.

  1. 2021 Honors and Awards Ceremony SEG| AAPG International Meeting for Applied Geoscience & Energy (IMAGE 2021)
  2. (2017). ”Honors and Awards.” The Leading Edge, 36(10), 806–819. http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/tle36100806.1