The 13th RPI for September-October 2017

Boris Gurevich - Professor of Geophysics at Curtin University, Perth, Australia

About Boris Gurevich

Boris Gurevich obtained his Diploma (Russian equivalent of MSc) at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1981 and started his career at the Moscow Institute of Geosystems. His early work included numerical analysis of NMR signals, and application of pattern recognition software to direct detection of hydrocarbons from seismic reflection data. It is in the Institute of Geosystems that he first met Sergey L. Lopatnikov who inspired Boris’s interest in poroelasticity. This subject became Boris’s long term obsession. His first steps in this area were focused on quantification of dispersion and attenuation due to mesoscopic flow in thinly-layered poroelastic systems. This research formed the basis of Boris’s PhD thesis (1988).

In 1990s, after visiting research appointments at University of Karlsruhe (Germany), Birkbeck College and Elf Geoscience Research Centre (both in London), Boris joined the Geophysical Institute of Israel, where he combined his continued interest in poroelasticity with development and application of multifocusing imaging.

In 2001 Boris was appointed Professor of Geophysics at Curtin University, where his research expanded into a large variety of rock physics topics, such as effective stress laws, stress dependency of rock properties and solid/fluid layered systems. At the same time, he continued to work on the topic of wave-induced fluid flow, studying such systems as patchy saturation; flow between pores and fractures; squirt flow; and heavy oil rocks. He has also collaborated with colleagues who specialise in seismic data processing and analysis. This collaboration led to a number of interesting studies, such as development of new algorithms for estimation of azimuthal anisotropy from vertical seismic profiles, and modelling the seismic time-lapse response of CO2 injected into a reservoir rock.

Pathways or recipes for your success in becoming a well-known name in the rock physics community

There is no one pathway or recipe but there are several principles that I think have helped me in the course of my career:

We are standing on the shoulders of the giants. This may be a cliché but I really think insights you get from reading some old papers are indispensable. But even more crucial for me was inspiration I got from some amazing scientists, not necessarily working on the same topics. I have been lucky to have met a great number of such people, but in particular I would mention late Leonid Girshgorn (who inspired me to study geophysics in the first place), Sergey Goldin and Mike Schoenberg.

It is important to keep in mind that, to quote a maxim often attributed to Einstein, a theoretical model must be as simple as possible to explain the observations but not simpler. Using models more complex than necessary may involve interesting and intriguing math but is quite harmful. For instance some people try to formulate the seismic inverse problem using equations of dynamic poroelasticity. Even if we assume that all the geological formations can be adequately described by these equations (which is unlikely), this makes the problem even more ill-posed than the elastic inverse problem, and greatly increases the uncertainty of the result.

Also, a specific point that I owe to my supervisor, Sergey Lopatnikov. He taught me to always look for an analytical closed-form solution even where the result is easily obtained numerically. Analytical solutions may only exist in some limiting cases, but they provide insights that are hard to obtain from a table of numbers or even a line graph (which is always computed for particular parameter combinations).

Finally I should mention importance of clear scientific communication. I have always strived to write very detailed papers, and even when writing about complex theoretical arguments,give lots of intuitive explanations. I am sure I have not always succeeded, but I think it is very important to appeal to a general geophysical audience rather than niche experts…

Challenges you see in taking rock physics to the next level 

The following challenges are close to my heart

Advice for early career scientists (rock physicists, geophysicists, etc.)

We thank Boris for his continuous contributions to the rock physics community