INTERVIEW COORDINATED BY SATINDER CHOPRA

“Our work lives longer than us”

A new subsection titled ‘student/junior geoscientist spotlight’ is being introduced in the RECORDER. It will be in the form of a short interview with a student or a junior professional who has joined our industry.

In this first student spotlight column, we feature Jinji Li, who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary. The following are Jinji’s response to the questions posed to him.

We hope the CSEG members like this column. Any comments or suggestions on the introduction of this column are welcome.

Jinji trying to harness a small boat

1. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND.

I completed my undergraduate studies at Ocean University of China in 2017, followed by earning my master’s degree from Tongji University in 2020, both specializing in geophysics. Currently, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in geophysics at CREWES, University of Calgary, where I commenced my doctoral program in January 2021.

2. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE UP A CAREER IN GEOSCIENCE?

My fascination with geoscience began with a computer game called “Uncharted Waters.” It was this game that first piqued my interest in exploring the Earth’s surface and delving into its depths. Navigating virtual oceans and uncovering hidden treasures ignited my imagination and curiosity about the mysteries of our planet.

As I progressed through my education, I had the opportunity to delve deeper into geoscience topics, and I was captivated by the profound impact it has on our understanding of Earth’s dynamics and future. What particularly intrigued me was the connection between sophisticated mathematical and physics theories and their application in geoscience.

Moreover, witnessing the environmental challenges we face today, such as climate change, natural hazards, and resource depletion, motivated me to pursue a career where I could contribute to addressing these pressing issues. Geoscience, with its unique insights and tools for studying and mitigating environmental problems, offers immense potential for positive impact. This is why I am enthusiastic about pursuing a career in this field.

Jinji having fun with his friends

3. SO, YOU ARE COMPLETING YOUR PH.D. DEGREE FROM UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY? TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Yes, I am completing my Ph. D. degree at the University of Calgary.

I would like to express that this is undeniably the most enjoyable and fulfilling period of my academic journey thus far. Engaging in graduate-level studies in CREWES has been an enriching experience filled with intellectual growth, exciting challenges, and invaluable opportunities for personal and professional development. Immersed in a stimulating academic environment surrounded by esteemed supervisors and fellow researchers, I find myself continually inspired and motivated to push the boundaries of knowledge in the field of geophysics. Collaborating with experts in the industry and academia, I have also had the privilege of contributing to cutting-edge research projects and exploring innovative solutions to complex geo-problems.

Overall, my Ph.D. journey has been a truly transformative and rewarding experience, shaping not only my academic and professional trajectory but also fostering lasting friendships and unforgettable memories, which I will keep in my mind for my whole life.

4. IF SOMEONE EVER VISITS CALGARY, WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE SOME OF THE PLACES TO CHECK OUT?

If someone visits Calgary, I will first recommend them to visit Banff National Park! It has breathtaking natural beauty and unique geological features. Exploring the wonderful lakes, towering mountains, and lush forests of Banff National Park is a truly rejuvenating experience. What’s particularly fascinating about Banff is its rich geological heritage. From mountain peaks to ancient glaciers, the region has a diverse array of geological formations waiting to be explored.

The other place I recommend is Drumheller. Located in the heart of Alberta’s Badlands, Drumheller offers a landscape characterized by canyons, towering hoodoos, and expansive fossil-rich terrain. Exploring Drumheller is like stepping back in time, as the region boasts one of the richest deposits of dinosaur fossils in the world. Beyond its paleontological wonders, Drumheller’s dramatic landscapes provide a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

A beautiful view of Moraine Lake

Drumheller’s amazing view

I would also recommend visiting the University of Calgary. Beyond its academic offerings, the University of Calgary has a vibrant campus community with cultural diversity, extracurricular activities, and opportunities for personal and professional development. Being an international student, I specifically appreciate it. The spirit of innovation, collaboration, and excellence is something worth checking out!

5. WHAT IS THE TOPIC OF YOUR DISSERTATION, AND TELL US ABOUT THE WORK THAT YOU ARE RESEARCHING?

The topic of my dissertation is temporarily set to “Waveform approaches in energy transitions”.

In research endeavors, I have delved into a multifaceted exploration of geophysical techniques and methodologies aimed at addressing pressing challenges in energy exploration, seismic hazard assessment, and uncertainty quantification in inversion problems. A part of my research focuses on Seismic While Drilling Full – Waveform Inversion (SWD-FWI) techniques tailored specifically for drilling applications for geothermal energy. By harnessing seismic data acquired during drilling operations and employing advanced inversion algorithms, our work aims to enhance reservoir characterization and optimize drilling processes.

Another aspect of my research involves the application of passive seismic methods for the identification of aftershocks in the Peace River area. By leveraging passive seismic data and employing machine learning techniques, we seek to detect and characterize aftershock sequences potentially caused by industrial water injection.

Moreover, my research extends to the realm of uncertainty quantification in inversion problems. Recognizing the inherent uncertainties associated with geophysics, we are working on developing robust methodologies to quantify and manage uncertainty in inversion processes.

This aspect of my research seeks to improve the reliability and accuracy of subsurface imaging and parameter estimation. By doing so, we aim to increase confidence in applying these techniques to real-world projects, such as CO2 monitoring with FWI.

6. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A GEOPHYSICIST?

Being a geophysicist is both intellectually stimulating and incredibly rewarding. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities to apply scientific principles to real-world problems. One of the most exciting aspects of this profession is the diversity of tasks and projects. Whether it’s analyzing seismic data to understand subsurface structures, conducting numerical experiments to study the seismic responses from certain geological formations, or exploring advanced geophysical theories, there’s always something interesting happening.

At the same time, being a geophysicist requires a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, and geology, as well as proficiency in various software tools and analytical techniques. It’s a field that demands continuous learning and adaptation to new technologies and methodologies.

Collaboration is also key in geophysics, as projects often involve interdisciplinary teams working together to achieve common goals. Communication skills are essential for conveying complex ideas to colleagues, fellow researchers, and sponsors.

Overall, being a geophysicist is a dynamic and enriching career that offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery, which excites me throughout this whole path.

Jinji presenting at the CREWES sponsor meeting

7. HAVE YOU ATTENDED ANY CONVENTIONS OR A WORKSHOP? WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING(S) YOU LIKED THERE?

Yes, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several conventions and workshops, including the 2022 International Meeting for Applied Geoscience & Energy (IMAGE) in Hoston, where I presented my research findings. Additionally, I actively participated in the 2022 and 2023 GeoConventions in Calgary by both presenting and volunteering.

These events not only provided platforms for sharing my research but also offered valuable networking opportunities. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was the chance to connect with fellow researchers and industry professionals, fostering meaningful collaborations and friendships. I also volunteered at these conventions, which allowed me to contribute to the success of the events while gaining insights into various facets of conference organization and management.

8. WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?

Personally, I strive to make meaningful contributions to both scientific advancement and industrial innovation that ultimately benefit human society and our planet. By dedicating myself to research and some more impactful projects in the future, I aim to address pressing challenges in fields such as geophysics, energy transition, and environmental sustainability. Our work lives longer than us.

While the pursuit of individual ambitions is important, it is equally crucial to work collectively towards a shared vision of a world where peace and sustainability prevail, ensuring a brighter future for generations to come. As an international student, I find immense joy and enrichment in the multicultural environment, thus I want to make contributions to harness the collective wisdom and creativity of our diverse community to address complex global challenges and create positive change in the world.

9. WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES/OTHER INTERESTS?

Reading, photography, playing video games, and going out hiking. I am also trying to learn how to skate with my friend and colleague so that I won’t waste the best ice in the world!