Tariq Ali Alkhalifah

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Tariq Ali Alkhalifah
Tariq AlKhalifa headshot.jpg
PhD Geophysics
PhD university Colorado School of Mines

Tariq A. Alkhalifah is Professor of Earth Sciences and Engineering at the King Abudullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). He received his B.S. in Geophysics at the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Saudi Arabia in 1988, his M.S. in Geophysical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, USA, in 1993, and his Ph.D. in Geophysics also at the Colorado School of Mines in 1997.

Dr. Alkhalifah's research interests are in imaging and velocity model building for exploring seismic data with special emphasis on media that exhibit anisotropic behavior of wave propagation. He is also interested in seismic acquisition and processing of near surface data for better near surface treatment.

Biography Citation for the J. Clarence Karcher Award[1]

Contributed by Biondo Biondi and John Toldi

If anisotropic processing has matured from an elegant construction of a few visionaries to an effective tool applied on a production basis, it is in large part thanks to Tariq Alkhalifah's enthusiasm for new ideas. While at Colorado School of Mines, Tariq transformed his scholarly excitement about anisotropic theory into practical methods for anisotropic imaging. Most important. Tariq cut through the problem of determining which are the pertinent parameters and devised a practical inversion method for obtaining these parameters from conventional surface seismic data. Here is how Ken Larner describes Tariq's first encounter with anisotropy:

"This was the course (quantitative seismology) that interested both Tariq and me in anisotropy. What followed the end of the course was a professor's dream-the natural coming together of a student and professor whose interests were fully in common. We would bump into each other in the hallway every day or so and exchange thoughts on papers we had been reading, and it seemed that, by coincidence, we had chosen many of the same papers."

Shortly after, Tariq joined the Center for Wave Phenomena where, under the mentorship of Larner and Ilya Tsvankin, he had six impressively productive years.

As a scientist, Tariq is fiercely independent and confident, yet eager and willing to learn from new data and observations. This combination of qualities has been nowhere more evident than in his remarkable success at applying his methods to field data. He attacks each data set confident that he already knows how to solve its particular problems, is carried by that confidence deep into the reality of the data set, then adapts his methods to get the most out of the data. The resulting growth in both his understanding of field data and the sophistication of his methods is remarkable.

While at Stanford as a postdoctoral fellow in the last year, Tariq responded enthusiastically to the challenges of a new environment and began to think about issues of 3-D and depth. A glance at his latest projects shows how quickly he initiates new ideas: for 3-D processing he derived analytical solutions for the Cheops pyramid and AMO in weakly anisotropic 3-D media; for imaging in complex media he has contributed to the development of time-domain processing in arbitrarily inhomogeneous media. But even more important than his technical contributions, Tariq's energy and enthusiasm have been a stimulus for Stanford's students and faculty.

Tariq's forceful and colorful talks have become a mainstay of geophysical meetings. He gave two talks at each of the last four SEG Annual Meetings and has been an active participant in the last three workshops on anisotropy. His talks are direct, clear, and to the point. The audience is in no danger of walking away without knowing the significance of Tariq's work. And more likely than not, the audience is going to remember the main message of the talk for quite some time. Tariq is also a clear writer. He learned the trade at Ken Larner's school, and as Ken says, "Tariq is the one, more than anyone else, who has taken suggestions on ways to improve writing to heart." He has already published 10 papers in Geophysics, and one, "Velocity analysis using nonhyperbolic moveout in transversely isotropic media" received honorable mention for Best Paper in Geophysics.

Tariq was born in 1966 in Alrass, Saudi Arabia, a small village in the middle of the desert, far removed from modern life. But he has become the perfect example of world cultural globalization. He is an adept citizen of both the Western world and the Eastern world. His first experience in the West was as a young boy in California while his father was completing a Ph.D. at U.C. Santa Barbara. He says that nostalgia for the free-form California lifestyle was one of the main reasons he came back to the United States for his own Ph.D. studies. However, before coming back to the United States, Tariq had a full immersion education in the culture and traditions of his own country.

He graduated from the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, which was followed by his first geophysical experience (in earthquake seismology) at the National Center of Technology in Riyadh. In 1991 he came back West to CSM, where he earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in geophysics. After finishing his doctorate in 1997, he became a post-doc with the Stanford Exploration Project and consultant with Chevron Overseas Petroleum Company.

Tariq has three beautiful daughters Nada, Monira, and Sara. The family is planning to return to Saudi Arabia where Tariq hopes to contribute to the education and training of a new generation of young Saudi geophysicists. We will miss him, but we are sure that we will find Tariq again wherever around the world a new and challenging seismic imaging problem is being tackled.

Honorable Mention (Geophysics) 1997

Tariq Ali Alkhalifah received 1997 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for his paper Velocity analysis using nonhyperbolic moveout in transversely isotropic media.[2]

Honorable Mention (Geophysics) 1995

Tariq Alkhalifah and Ilya Tsvankin received 1995 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for their paper Velocity analysis for transversely isotropic media.[3]


  1. Society of Exploration Geophysicists (1998) Awards Citations of the SEG SEG Publications, Tulsa, Ok.
  2. Alkhalifah, T. A. (1997) Velocity analysis using nonhyperbolic moveout in transversely isotropic media, GEOPHYSICS 62(6):1839.
  3. Alkhalifah, T. and I. Tsvankin (1995 Velocity analysis for transversely isotropic media, GEOPHYSICS 60(5):1550.