Pioneering spirit wins UH geophysics professor kudos at international meeting


Fred Hilterman's innovations and dedication recognized for advancing geosciences

HOUSTON, Oct. 8, 2004 Innovations in seismic 'sonograms' and a fierce dedication to growing the geophysics industry have earned UH Professor Fred J. Hilterman top honors at the largest gathering of the global geophysical community.

Hilterman, professor of geophysics at the University of Houston, will be honored as one of three recipients of the 2004 Cecil Green Enterprise Award at the upcoming Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) International Exposition and 74th Annual Meeting, held Oct. 10-15 in Denver. Hilterman shares this honor with two of his long-time research partners and fellow awardees, the late Reg Neale and John W.C. Sherwood, all three of whom are being recognized for their creation of the Geophysical Development Corporation (GDC). The awards ceremony will take place at 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 10, in Ballrooms Two and Three of the Colorado Convention Center.

"The Enterprise Award was started to honor our members who risked their personal finances in starting up geophysical companies," said Brian Russell, chairman of the SEG Honors and Awards Committee. "It was renamed for Cecil Green last year to honor one of the pioneers in our field who started Geophysical Service Inc."

In 1981, GDC was created by Hilterman, Neale and Sherwood. The company became a leader in the integration and calibration of petrophysical and seismic data and was an industrial giant in the field of amplitude variations with offset (AVO) and other amplitude-related exploration and development applications. Although the company was sold to Geokinetics in 1998, Hilterman remained GDC's vice president of development until 2003.

"GDC helped oil companies with three things solving data processing problems in rough topography, such as sand dunes, developing a clear image of the structure of the earth and determining if borehole fluid content was gas, oil or water," Hilterman said. "This was done using information taken from wells drilled in the area and correlating that to the seismic responses."

While Neale's area of expertise was used when the surface of the earth was highly irregular and Sherwood worked on developing wave propagation solutions to determine the earth's structure, Hilterman's contribution was to use AVO to determine the earth's composition and describes it as being similar to a sonogram.

"A sonogram uses amplitude or loudness variation to define the density or blackness of an image," Hilterman said. "A constant gray tone, which signifies constant amplitude, means the composition of what you are imaging is all the same, suggesting the composition is a fluid like water. With AVO, you are using amplitude to determine the earth's composition."

Joining the University of Houston in 1973, Hilterman holds an impressive array of SEG honors to date. He was SEG Distinguished Lecturer for 2001, as well as past recipient of the SEG Best Paper Award and Best Presentation Award, the SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal and the prestigious SEG Honorary Membership Award.

For more information and a photo of Hilterman, visit

The SEG International Exposition and Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of the global geophysical community. As the Society's biggest technical gathering, hundreds of papers drawing on leading-edge geophysical work from all around the world are presented. UH faculty and students from the Department of Geosciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are well represented at this year's conference, presenting more than 20 oral and poster presentations that run the gamut from multicomponent vertical seismic profile imaging to 3-D seismic attribute analysis for fracture detection. For more information about the meeting and to access a schedule of presenters and presentations, visit

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