Dr. Douglas R. Schmitt

Dr. Douglas R. Schmitt BASc 1980
2008 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year

The University of Lethbridge Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus/a of the Year Award recognizes individuals for exceptional professional achievements, academic excellence, and/or contributions to society.

Douglas Schmitt, currently a professor of geophysics and physics at the University of Alberta, began his interest in science at the age of five, inspired by scientists who set off large test explosions near his family farm in Suffield, Alberta. In 1976, Douglas Schmitt embarked on his academic journey at the University of Lethbridge where he was active in the Residence Students' Association. He graduated with distinction in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. Upon graduation, he worked as a petroleum exploration geophysicist in Calgary, Alberta.

In 1981, Douglas Schmitt attended graduate school at the California Institute of Technology, assisted by an Alberta Heritage Foundation scholarship, and completed his doctorate in geophysics in 1987. Douglas Schmitt did his post-doctoral research at Stanford University before beginning his career with the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta in 1989. As a professor of geophysics and physics at the University of Alberta, he is held in high esteem by his students for the exceptional care and effort that he dedicates to them. In fact, nearly all of the geophysicists who received an undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta during the past decade are alumni of Douglas Schmitt's Geophysics Field School, which he has run for many years on and around his family farm in southern Alberta.

As a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship in 1996, Douglas Schmitt dedicated a year to research at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany before returning to his professorship at the University of Alberta. In 2005, he was a visiting scientist at the Research School of Earth Sciences at Australian National University in Canberra.

In 2002, Douglas Schmitt was appointed to a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in recognition of his pioneering research of rock physics and its application to time-lapse 4D geophysical monitoring. Douglas Schmitt leads a team of highly skilled field and laboratory researchers who are well respected for their development and use of sophisticated ultrasonic equipment on rock to study how seismic wave speeds change with pressure and fluid content. Douglas Schmitt's research group applies this knowledge to field-scale experiments where large seismic sources are used to find and monitor changes in the physical properties of rocks hiding at depth in the earth. Their research yields valuable information with important implications from better management of hydrocarbon production in the oil industry, to the search for new mineral and water resources, to the safe geological sequestration of green house gases, and to the safety of mine workers worldwide. Douglas Schmitt's team has worked on several scientific drilling projects throughout the world, in locations as varied as Africa, Finland, and Antarctica. Douglas Schmitt is also spearheading a new project that involves scientific drilling into the deep permafrost of Canada's Arctic regions.

Douglas Schmitt serves locally as a member of the Board of Examiners of the Association of Professional Engineering, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta, nationally on a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant selection committee, and internationally on the Scientific Technology Panel of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. He currently directs the Institute for Geophysical Research, a multidisciplinary group of geoscientists at the University of Alberta.

Based on this outstanding record of scientific and professional achievement, the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association is proud to recognize Douglas R. Schmitt as the 2008 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for his outstanding achievements in scientific research.