Stanford University
Tiziana Vanorio standing in front of the Rock Physics Laboratory

NSF CAREER award for Tiziana Vanorio

ClockMarch 31, 2015

Tiziana Vanorio, assistant professor of Geophysics in Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, has received a National Science Foundation award as part of the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to advance her innovative research on the geophysical and mechanical response of rocks and materials to rock-fluid interactions.

From geothermal fields to carbon sequestration to induced seismicity from fluid injection unerground, rock-fluid interactions are everywhere, though they remain difficult to monitor geophysically due to their inaccessibility.  Understanding these interactions is vital to interpret and control processes occurring deep underground and turn data observations into decisions.

“The proposed research aims to improve our fundamental understanding of how to decipher changes in the Earth’s crust due to fluid movement and rock-fluid interactions,” Vanorio says in her proposal.  “This is a challenging problem because of its complexity and multidisciplinary nature.”

The four-year research plan contains experimentation on rock samples using state-of-the-art technologies to simulate thermo-chemo-mechanical conditions in the Earth's crust, iteratively and digitally modified 3D printed rock models from CT-scans, and an innovative 3D virtual laboratory that will allow students to learn the techniques necessary to conduct the experiments as well as to actively pursue research opportunities.

The virtual laboratory reproduces Vanorio’s Stanford lab through interactive, 3-D animated renderings of the instruments that the students can digitally assemble and operate.  “The virtual lab is a powerful teaching tool that extends into the world of experimentation,” Vanorio said.  “It helps the students attain a fundamental understanding of the instruments and how we use them to understand fluid-rock interactions.  It has the potential to dramatically shorten the learning curve for using the complex instruments and allows the students to spend more time on research questions.”

Illustration of a lab instrument
A 3D virtual model of an instrument used in Vanorio's lab to study the rock physics signature of rock-fluid interactions.  Students can use the model to look inside the instrument and gain a better understanding of the experimental setup (courtesy of Tiziana Vanorio).

The CAREER award program is part of the National Science Foundation’s commitment to support junior faculty who exemplify the role of both teacher and scholar through outstanding research and innovative educational design.  Each year, the Foundation awards scholars across all scientific disciplines, such as the geosciences, biology, computer technology, economics, and social sciences.

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