The Mathematics of Oil Recovery
“There’s a real use for the work we do,” says Ruth Gonzalez, a geophysical mathematician at Exxon Production Research Company. “People are relying on the information we provide… When somebody
actually uses your work and appreciates what you do, there is an immediate justification to keep on trying.
Ruth develops the mathematical basis for seismic imaging tools used in the exploration and production of oil and gas reservoirs. When analyzed mathematically, data about how seismic waves propagate and scatter below the earth’s surface can be used to formulate a picture of the subsurface geology. Ruth’s work involves developing the mathematics behind the computer programs that perform calculations and produce diagrams and images used in making decisions about drilling and exploration.
‘I was interested in math and science all through elementary, junior high, and high school,” Ruth recalls. “It was no surprise when I enrolled in college as a math major. I worked 20 to 40 hours a week while I was an undergraduate. Working my way through school with menial jobs helped sustain my resolve to complete my education.”
After finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1976, Ruth worked on modeling problems in under water acoustics at the University’s Applied Research Laboratories. She went to Exxon in 1980, and, while continuing to work full-time, she earned her doctorate in mathematical sciences from Rice University. “I felt that having a PhD would give me more career options and more direct control and responsibility over the kind of problems I could work on.”
Ruth’s parents were both raised in Mexico. “Neither of them had the opportunity to get an education,” she remarks. Ruth grew up in Houston and attended Galena Park High School. Raised in a community in which illiteracy is high and about half the Hispanic students do not finish high school, Ruth and her three siblings all finished high school and attended college, but she is the only one of the four with an advanced degree.” Although my parents didn’t always under stand my reasons for pursuing so much education, they are very proud of my accomplishments,” she notes.
Ruth also finds time to serve as an adult literacy tutor, and as a volunteer at the Houston Area Women’s Center and at a shelter for homeless teenagers. In her spare time, she enjoys jazz music and pre-Columbian art and history.
This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.