COMMUNITY PARTNERS: Geotechnical firms, mining and hydrocarbon industry, national laboratories, academic institutions
FACULTY LEAD: Dr. Jeffrey Johnson
“Geophysics merges geosciences, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering in orderto better understand our earth, its structure and its dynamical processes. Boise State geophysics faculty and students employ seismology, electromagnetic methods, geodetic and remote sensing tools to map both shallow and deep geologic features, understand water resources, study volcanoes and earthquakes, monitor snowpack and avalanches, and consult on construction. Current projects take geophysics researchers across the planet to field sites throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”
– Jeffrey Johnson
Diego Domenzain doesn’t have super powers, but he does have tools that help him see what’s below the surface and make an educated guess about how big it is. Two sets of tools, actually. A candidate in the Ph.D. in geophysics program, Domenzain is working to combine those two tools into one to improve the reliability and accuracy of subsurface imaging.
Under the direction of professors Dr. John Bradford, geophys- ics, and Dr. Jodi Mead, mathematics, Domenzain is developing methods to integrate and analyze ground-penetrating radar with electrical resistivity measurements. Currently, each tool measures the subsurface in a different way, providing different sets of data.
“The problem is that there are multiple solutions that describe our data,” said Bradford. “By combining two measurements, we eliminate some possibilities and make better estimates with less uncertainty.”
This new, combined tool will allow for immediate practical use in many areas. For instance, in Idaho, where snow is the prima- ry water storage, it can be used to obtain better measurement of the snowpack, as well as improve our understanding of how snow is turned into runoff and how it enters the aquifer. It also could be used to detect groundwater contaminants, monitor geothermal resources or characterize archaeological sites.
Like geoscientists, geophysicists are interested in the structure of the earth. Geophysicists use mathematics, physics and a specific suite of tools including radar and seismology to understand geologic properties. A native of Mexico, Domenzain earned his master’s degree in mathematics at Michigan Tech, and then wanted to find a way to use his knowledge while being more closely connected to nature and helping society by enhancing quality of life.
“You need a basic understanding of math, physics modeling and computation,” he said. “But you don’t need to already know a lot about rocks.”
Because the discipline relies heavily on a technical skillset, it can take years to become truly proficient, making doctoral students particularly valuable to the oil industry. But Bradford expects that due to increasing threats to fresh water supplies, water resources may soon overtake oil as the discipline’s top career path, opening even more doors for graduates.