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Steeples to lecture around the globe

Professor will continue vice provost role

Don Steeples

Don Steeples, Dean A. McGee Distinguished Professor of Applied Geophysics and vice provost for scholarly support, was selected by the Society for Exploration Geophysicists as Distinguished Lecturer for fall 2007. In the role, Steeples will give a lecture on his research at universities around the world. The society has more than 25,000 members in more than 130 countries.

Steeples will travel to deliver the lectures from August through the end of 2007. Past lecturers have spoken in locations such as Brazil, Venezuela, Nigeria, South Africa, China, Canada and universities throughout the United States.

During his lectureship, Steeples will continue as vice provost for scholarly support. He will use mobile technology to conduct university business while traveling. The lectureship also will not affect his professorship, as he teaches primarily in the spring semester.

Steeples' topic will be near-surface geophysical imaging, a method that uses seismic technology as well as radar to search below the earth's surface, similar to ultra-sound imaging.

The method has been used to detect clandestine smuggling tunnels, buried earthquake faults and underground pathways for groundwater pollutants.

He has consulted with the government of South Korea to use the technique to look for tunnels in the demilitarized zone, and the United States has used the method to search for drug-smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Mexico.

The imaging methods also have great potential in public safety. They can help detect and monitor underground faults as well as the safety of levees.

"Our researchers have been real leaders in developing a method for evaluating the structural integrity of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levees with these methods," Steeples said.

The methods also have the potential of helping prevent flooding resulting from broken levies such as that in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"A complete geophysical survey ahead of time could have told them where those weak spots were," Steeples said.

A native of Palco in Rooks County, Steeples has been with KU since 1975. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas State University, he earned another master's and a Ph.D. in geophysics from Stanford University before joining KU. He has won numerous awards, a fellowship from the Geological Society of America and a life membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He also maintains wheat and milo fields on a family farm in western Kansas.

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