Pierpaolo Marchesini working on a field project to unravel the seismic signature of fluids moving through the subsurface.

Pierpaolo Marchesini was one of four EESA postdocs to address the Meet your Postdoc session on Thursday, November 16, a brown-bag lunch series designed to acquaint senior scientists with EESA postdocs and their significant contributions to Berkeley Lab. Nkosi Muse sat down with Pierpaolo to discuss the work he does at Berkeley Lab using acoustic seismic waves.

Question: Describe the path led you to Berkeley Lab.

Answer: After earning my Master’s degree in Italy, I took a job as an electrical engineer in Boston, Massachusetts, for a subsurface engineering company. My work there entailed developing ground-penetrating radar to monitor subsurface activity. It was there that I developed an interest in this geological-type work, and that I met a professor from the University of Miami. He was looking for someone to understand electrical and radar systems for monitoring geological processes. After completing my Ph.D. at Miami, I reached out to my current PI, Thomas Daley, who had a postdoctoral opening and was looking to apply geophysics to a broad spectrum of tasks.

Q: What is it you do here at Berkeley Lab? Why is it important?

A: My work consists of subsurface monitoring using acoustic seismic waves. Using the borehole method, we are essentially able to take a “CT scan” of the earth between two underground points. With this method, we are able to monitor the stress state of rock formations which can be modified by fluids, and analyze how the stress state of rocks changes before and after geological processes. Subsurface monitoring allows us to keep an eye on potential leaks in CO2 sequestration, optimize the management of subsurface energy like geothermal or hydrocarbon for more sustainable methods of power, and potentially detect precursory symptoms of an impending earthquake.

Q: What is it about geology and geophysics that keeps you so engaged in the research?

A: I always had a love for remote sensing. I had friends that would do remote sensing work but through radar and atmospheric purposes. When I learned that I could apply remote sensing to underground projects, I felt like I had found my niche. Like the ocean, there is a lot we do not know about Earth’s subsurface because it is so difficult to study, and the challenge is something that I enjoy.

Q: Besides research, what is your favorite thing to do?

A: I have an old, 1969 Polaroid camera that I like to play around with. It is interesting to try and replicate what technology can do now using equipment that is almost 50 years old. I also enjoy playing squash and sailing.

Q: Of all the issues currently of concern to scientists, which issue in your opinion deserves the most scientific attention?

A: Rapid climate change, and the exacerbating, anthropogenic effects on its pace. One way or another, we need a solution, and that requires us working together in all scientific areas to develop technologies and techniques to make better use of energy resources. Although we can’t stop it, we can still mitigate it, slow it down, and keep planet Earth habitable in a sustainable fashion.