School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

John F. Ferguson Appointed Head Of UTD's Geosciences Department

Long-Time Professor Succeeds Robert J. Stern, Who Will Take Leave

RICHARDSON, Texas (Aug. 4, 2005) - Dr. John F. Ferguson, a noted geophysicist and long-time faculty member at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), was appointed head of the university's Geosciences Department, effective Monday. Ferguson succeeds Dr. Robert J. Stern, department head for the past eight years, who will begin a year-long leave - known as a "special faculty development assignment" - this fall, after which he will return to UTD to teach and conduct research. Stern will teach classes and pursue research projects during the coming fall semester at Stanford University, then move to the California Institute of Technology for the spring semester.

John Ferguson

New Geosciences Department Head John Ferguson, pictured with a seismograph he and several colleagues built last year. The instrument, located in the lobby of Founders Hall, records the seismic waves generated by earthquakes.

"Bob Stern's contributions to the geosciences field and the geosciences program at UTD are many and are greatly appreciated by his colleagues at the university," said Dr. John P. Ferraris, interim dean of the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics. "We are delighted, of course, that he will return to UTD once his leave is completed.

"John Ferguson's many years of experience as both a teacher and researcher, coupled with his valuable contacts in the field at the national level, will serve the department equally well in the years ahead."

Geosciences involves the study of the Earth, past and present, from its core outward to other planetary bodies. A degree in the field prepares graduates for a career with a host of potential employers, including companies in the oil and gas and mining industries, environmental consulting firms, federal and state government agencies, national laboratories and primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education.

Ferguson joined UTD in 1982 as a visiting assistant professor of geosciences. He became an assistant professor in 1984 and an associate professor in 1989. Prior to joining UTD, he served in various teaching and research capacities at Southern Methodist University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wofford College (all of which he attended) as well as in geoscientific roles at two private-sector firms - Teledyne Geotech, Inc., and Ebasco Services, Inc. He also worked for the United States Geological Survey.

Ferguson's research interests include seismology, numerical modeling, signal processing and potential theory, which is the study of the Earth's magnetic and gravity fields. Ferguson's interest in seismology manifested itself on campus last year when he and several colleagues built a seismograph in Founders Hall to record seismic waves generated by earthquakes anywhere on the planet. While a curiosity to passersby in the lobby of Founders, the university's main science building, the primary purpose of the sensitive scientific instrument - one of the few of its kind in the Dallas-Fort Worth area - is to serve as a learning tool for students enrolled in geosciences courses.

Ferguson is a founding member of the Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE), a unique educational program designed to introduce students in geophysics and related fields to "hands on" geophysical exploration and research. Begun in 1983 by academic geophysicists and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the field camp has hosted almost 500 students from institutions around the world who come to New Mexico to study the Rio Grande rift, a major break in the earth's crust extending from Colorado to northern Mexico. In 1998, SAGE won the American Geophysical Union Excellence in Geophysical Education Award.

Since 1993, Ferguson has done work for British Petroleum, Inc., on the development of new methods for monitoring fluid movement in hydrocarbon reservoirs using precision gravity methods.

He teaches a broad range of courses at UTD at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in such subjects as computing and data analysis for geoscientists, global positioning system satellite surveying and earthquake seismology.

Ferguson earned a Ph.D. degree in geophysics from Southern Methodist University, an M.S. degree in geophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. degree in physics from Wofford College.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 14,500 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s web site at

UTD News Contact: Steve McGregor (972)883-2293

  • Updated: February 10, 2014