Nigerian Bags Highest Society of Exploration Geophysicists Award

Dr Maxwell Azuka Meju A Nigerian, Dr Maxwell Azuka Meju, has been selected by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) headquartered in Tu

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Dr Maxwell Azuka Meju

A Nigerian, Dr Maxwell Azuka Meju, has been selected by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) headquartered in Tulsa, USA for the 2019 Reginald Fessenden Award, one of the highest prizes in exploration geophysics.

A notification of the award signed by the SEG 2018/2019 president, Robert Stewart, stated that the award was in recognition of the development of the current cross-gradient joint-inversion method, an invention now widely used in academia and various industries. The method allows, for the first time, the combination of data from multiple unrelated phenomena to arrive at one consistent solution. This reduces uncertainty in decision making with observational data.

Part of the notification letter read:

“It is my privilege to notify you that by unanimous decision of the SEG Honors SEG Board of Directors, you and Luis Gallardo have been selected to receive the Society’s Reginald Fessenden Award. This honor is in recognition of your development of the current method of cross-gradient  joint-inversion.

The Reginald Fessenden Award is given to a person who has made a specific technical contribution to exploration geophysics, such as, an invention or theoretical or conceptual advancement, which in  the opinion of the Honors and Awards Committee and the Board of Directors, merits special recognition”

The letter noted that Dr Meju’s important contributions to the sciences, and the exploration geophysics profession are greatly appreciated.

“On behalf of the society, Congratulations on being selected to receive the Reginald Fessenden award. Your important contributions to the sciences and our profession are greatly appreciated.”

The award will be presented to Dr Meju in September at the SEG Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Reacting to the award, Dr Max Meju, currently with PETRONAS Centre for Advanced Imaging in Malaysia, expressed joy and humility over the award which has placed him on the same league with distinguished personalities in the profession.

   Said Dr Max Meju: “Today, I checked out the list of past recipients of this prestigious award at the SEG website and just realized how lucky I am. The list of Reginald Fessenden awardees from 1961 to 2018 consists of distinguished innovators and inventors in academia and industry. I am proud that I and my former PhD student, Luis Gallardo, will be joining this select group in September 2019. I am completely humbled. God is great. I am very happy that our 2003 invention radically transformed the way multidisciplinary data are integrated in academia and various industries”.

Dr Maxwell Azuka Meju hails from Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha Local Government of Delta State. He attended Government School Ogwashi-Uku, St Anthony College Ubulu-Uku and Federal Government College Warri from where he moved to the University of Benin for a degree in Geology. Meju was the best graduating student in Uniben in 1981 where he won all the prizes – departmental, dean’s and best graduating student. He was the first student to be awarded a first class honours degree in Geology at the University of Benin where his academic record still remains unbeaten.

A Nigerian federal government postgraduate scholar, he attended Imperial College, London where he obtained his Masters Degree in Geophysics in 1984. He moved to the University of Edinburgh in 1984 for his PhD in Geophysics (geoelectromagnetism specialty). In 1985-1987, he received the Overseas Research Student Award for “outstanding research potential” from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of United Kingdom (CVCP) London.

He joined the University of Leicester as a full-time lecturer in geophysics in February 1988. In 1994 he published the now classic textbook titled, “Geophysical Data Analysis: Understanding Inverse Problem Theory and Practice” that is used in all undergraduate and postgraduate geophysics curricula worldwide.

Dr Meju was awarded the United Kingdom Bullerwell Prize (Geophysicist of the Year)in 1996 for outstanding leadership in geophysical inversion theory and practice, and demystifying the mathematics of geophysics.He left Leicester University in 2002 (taking Luis Gallardo with him) for Lancaster University Environmental Centre where he was appointed a Reader (senior associate professor) in environmental geophysics. He was awarded the Gerald W. Hohmann International Prize for excellence in Applied Electrical Geophysics in 2002 for his landmark work on groundwater geophysics; an award presented in October 2002 at 72nd Annual International Meeting of Society of Exploration Geophysicists in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Together with Luis Gallardo, they developed a new brand of mathematics for data fusion or resolving conflict between uncorrelated models which they termed the “cross-gradient method”. The theory and application published in 2003 and 2004,are now used worldwide. It is for this invention that Dr Maxwell Meju and Luis Gallardo are now being honoured with the SEG 2019 Reginald Fesseden Award. He was the Chair of the European Space Agency (ESA) Hydrology Panel (Rome) that developed ‘Rivers and Lakes’ products from ESA satellite altimetry data from 2002-2004.

Dr Meju was one of the main stars of a popular TV documentary on volcano hazards (National Geographic Channel – Naked Science 2007, ‘Volcano Alert’)aired world-wide (UK Channel 4, South America, Australia, Asia, etc). He is an adviser to government agencies on volcano imaging and related geothermal energy exploration. He helped lead a team of scientists from various European universities to win a multi-million Euros funding for advanced research on monitoring and treatment of contaminated land by European Union in Brussels (SOILCAM project, EU framework FP7 program) 2008-2012.

Dr Meju also completed his MBA (Finance) degree study with distinction (top of his class) in early 2008 at the 5-star Leicester University Management Centre in UK before moving to the energy industry in September 2008 to develop new methods for oil and gas exploration. He is principal geophysicist and leads the global multi-physics operations of the Malaysian large oil and gas company, PETRONAS.

Dr Maxwell Meju was in 2011, listed as one of the world’s most important earth scientists. He was a leading member of an international consortium that revealed the most definitive large-scale electrical conductivity structure beneath the northeast part of Tibet Plateau relevant to the on-going deep crustal-flow debate and earthquake distribution in Himalaya-Tibet (Bai et al., Nature Geoscience 2010), now used for earthquake-related work in that region (and awarded Chinese Government prize in 2012 for being the ‘most influential earthquake-related geoscience research’).

In 2017, he developed an improved method of analyzing Controlled-Source Electro Magnetic (CSEM) soundings to find commercial oil and gas in deep seas using his famous cross-gradient approach. In 2018, he helped set up the new PETRONAS Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) where he leads all the multi-physics innovation and practice.He is also visiting professor at the National Observatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China.