Rowan Cockett

Research Topic

Coupled Geophysical Inverse Problems

Research Group

Geophysical Inversion Facility

Research Description

Geophysics allows us to image the subsurface and get an idea of where things are or how they are moving without digging anything up or drilling any wells. There are lots of different geophysical methods, which each use different properties of the ground (how magnetic? how electrically resistive?). Sometimes all sorts of methods are done in the same place, and although you might expect them to give the same image, they often don't. What I am trying to do is figure out how to integrate the methods and information to get not just the same image, but hopefully a better one.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

A lot of my research is interdisciplinary, which means I get to work with quite a few brilliant people at UBC and other universities. I find that sort of experience extremely valuable as the research often takes unexpected turns, as it is shaped by external factors.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The rain is not nearly as bad as everyone say!

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

The school, the program, the people, the city. All outstanding. When I was deciding, I had a conversation with my current supervisor where I was bombarded with all sorts of ideas, thoughts, research directions and philosophies. I came to UBC to gain the same sort of technical expertise and perspective on the field that is especially vibrant in our research group.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

What I like about my program is that it is right at the base of a branch of geophysics, which means I get to learn and incorporate other disciplines: numerical simulation, optimization, computer science, medical imaging, hydrology, geology. There are people in my research group working on completely different topics, but the exact same problem: it keeps things interesting!


Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

To surround myself with people who are experts in their domains and are interested and engaged in the world. To be inspired I believe you have to put yourself in inspiring places.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

The biggest challenge I see is not a technical one, a lot of the ideas for how to solve these problems have been kicking around in the literature for decades. The problem is that differentiating the great ideas from this stack is impossible without testing and experimentation. Right now the barrier to entry to start experimenting with these ideas is years of toolbox and code development, which many researchers do not have the time to invest. There will be some interesting challenges to the status quo about the benefits of being open with your research tools as well as your ideas. It’s exciting.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

My program is giving me the technical skills that allow me to develop a toolbox that allows me to experiment with other people’s ideas and start to draw my own conclusions. Mix this with some of UBC’s communities that very much promote Open Science, there will be some interesting results.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I have excellent mentors and peers who always encouraged me to up my game.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I try to spend my time outside when I am not working. I do a lot of running (a few marathons coming up in the Fall), road biking, and hiking in and around Vancouver.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I have been lucky to wind up with supervisors and groups that encourage me to present at and attend many diverse international conferences. If you have the luxury of choosing supervisors, check if they send their masters (or even undergraduate) students to conferences. Go tell the world what you are doing.