Yingcai Zheng

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Yingcai Zheng
Yingcai Zheng 2015 headshot.jpg
PhD university University of California-Santa Cruz

SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award 2015

The Honors and Awards Committee unanimously recommends Yingcai Zheng for the J. Clarence Karcher Award. Yingcai has published 11 papers on characterization of fractured reservoirs in peer-reviewed international journals as first author and has contributed as coauthor to three other papers. Moreover, he has published and contributed to 27 conference proceedings. Yingcai has previously been recognized with the Earth Resources Laboratory Fellowship, MIT, 2010–2011; SPIRIT Scholar, ConocoPhillips, 2006; Waters Award for outstanding Ph.D. thesis proposal, UCSC, 2005; Regents Fellowship, University of California, 2003; and participant in CIDER workshop and planning meetings, 2006 and 2009.

Biography Citation for the SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award 2015

by Jie Zhang, Rob D. van der Hilst, and Rob Stewart

Yingcai Zheng, an outstanding early-career scientist, has made remarkable contributions to a range of important research topics, including the development of nonlinear full-waveform inversion and fracture characterization technologies. He is an outstanding recipient of the J. Clarence Karcher Award.

Yingcai received his B.S. degree in geophysics from Peking University in 2001 and his Ph.D. in seismology from the University of California–Santa Cruz in 2007. He was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT for a year and then became a research scientist at MIT for the next three years. He joined the University of Houston as an assistant professor in 2014 in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and has been active with the Allied Geophysical Laboratory.

Yingcai has provided cutting-edge solutions to many difficult research problems. His major technical contributions are as follows:

  • During his Ph.D. studies at the University of California–Santa Cruz, Yingcai proved one-to-one correspondence between nth-order Fréchet derivative and nth-order Born scattering term in full-waveform inversion (FWI). This provides an alternative nonlinear formulation for FWI beyond the linearized adjoint FWI formulation. He showed that the low-wavenumber components of the velocity model might be recovered if high-order Fréchet derivatives are also considered without the need of low-frequency sources.
  • While at MIT, Yingcai collaborated with other researchers at the Earth Resources Laboratory and developed a new algorithm, the double-focusing Gaussian-beam (DFBG) method, to characterize fracture networks using multiply scattered waves among fractures for oil and gas development in fractured reservoirs. The DFBG algorithm works for all kinds of fractured reservoirs, including thin layers and multiple sets of random fractures. This algorithm has been verified by a blind numerical test and a field test in a carbonate reservoir.
  • In addition to these key contributions, Yingcai has conducted research in several broad areas in geophysics and has produced significant results published in high-impact journals such as Science and Geophysics. In particular, he created the first 3D image of the earth’s mantle discontinuities in the Tonga subduction mantle wedge down to 500 km by using true-amplitude imaging with illumination correction using deep-focus earthquakes. The results and interpretation were published as a research article in Science in 2007.
  • He developed a new method using transmission fluctuations to invert for a spatial power spectrum of statistical small-scale heterogeneities as a function of depth, an important tool in understanding mixing heterogeneities in the earth’s mantle. It was an invited chapter in Advances in Geophysics, published in 2008.
  • Yingcai developed a method for subsalt imaging with multiples. This is important for exploration areas such as the deepwater Gulf of Mexico for improved subsalt illumination. It was published in Geophysics in 2011.
  • Yingcai elucidated the geologic-disruption mechanism resulting from seismic-wave antipodal focusing for basin-forming impacts on Mercury in the early solar system. This was published in Planet and Space Sciences, 2012, with Nafi Toksöz, Maria Zuber, and others.
  • Yingcai predicted a seismic low-velocity zone in the Mars lithosphere. NASA’s 2016 InSight mission to Mars might verify or disapprove this. This was published in Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors in 2014.

At the young age of 33, Dr. Yingcai Zheng has made great contributions to key research subjects in exploration geophysics and to many other areas of geophysics. He clearly is an emerging star in our geophysics community and a fitting recipient of the J. Clarence Karcher Award.

"Yingcai Zheng, 2007"

Biography 2007

Yingcai Zheng is currently is an assistant professor of seismic imaging at the University of Houston.

Biography 2007 [1]

Yingcai Zheng graduated with a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2007. He is a research scientist at MIT. He used both deterministic imaging and stochastic imaging in random media to study the Earth’s crust, mantle, and core structures. Along with his interest in earthquake seismology, he is now actively working on inverting parameters for fractured reservoirs and water multiples. He is an SEG member.


  1. Contributors GEOPHYSICS Sep 2011, Vol. 76, No. 5, pp. Z117-Z122.