University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tom Holley

Director, Petroleum Engineering Program
University of Houston
PhD 1982, Physics
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I am very proud of my University of Wisconsin heritage. I joined Shell in 1982 directly following a Ph.D. with Professor Chun Lin of UW Physics on ab initio calculations of electron scattering cross-sections on diatomic molecules.

Much to my discredit, I had no prior education or experience in geology, geophysics, or the oil business prior to joining Shell, other than a summer job pumping gas at a Mobil station when I was in high school.

Over the next 28 years I held Shell positions that span much of exploration geophysics, including seismic data processing (statics, seismic imaging), quantitative interpretation of fluids in porous media, seismic data interpretation, training (Geophysics Training Coordinator for the U.S.), and research (3-D seismic survey experimental design, theoretical and experimental studies of elastic P-wave and S-wave anisotropy, seismic imaging including a patent involving imaging and survey design).

My final Shell assignment was to lead at team of about 40 geoscientists and computer scientists in our two exploration and production laboratories in Houston and Rijswijk, The Netherlands (a suburb of The Hague). That team still produces Shell’s proprietary seismic data interpretation and modeling system called 123DI. 123DI is one of the two main software systems that Shell uses to put geophysics and geology research results into the hands of Shell geoscientists, with a growing community of about 2000 users worldwide in 23 countries.

In early 2010 I left Shell and assumed the position of Director of Petroleum Engineering for the University of Houston, fulfilling a life-long dream of returning the university life.  We are building a new Petroleum Engineering Department almost from the ground up, including new curricula, new faculty, new facilities, the works.  I am a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge, but I am confident that my UW training will once again stand me in good stead.