Mohammad Sepehr 1967-2009

Mohammad Sepehr, structural geologist with NIOC Exploration, died suddenly of a heart attack in May 2009, a few days after the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) Conference in Shiraz (SW Iran) which he had helped to organize.

After obtaining his B.Sc. from the University of Tehran, Mohammad continued his studies at Imperial College, London. He received an M.Sc in “Applied Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics” from the University of London and DIC in 1996. He completed his Ph.D thesis on “The Tectonic significance of the Kazerun Fault Zone, Zagros Fold-Thrust Belt” in 2001, and then continued as a post-doctoral research associate at Imperial working on the tectonic evolution of the Zagros fold-thrust belt and salt tectonics in the Persian Gulf Basin.  Aspects of his Ph.D research were published in a major paper co-authored with his supervisor John Cosgrove in Marine and Petroleum Geology (21, 829-843, 2004): “Structural framework of the Zagros fold-thrust belt”.

Mohammad was passionate about geology. In a relatively short period of time, he built up an international reputation on the geological evolution and hydrocarbon potential of Iran in particular, and the Middle East in general. He was never happier than when working in the Zagros fold-thrust belt.

In 2006, he joined NIOC Exploration as a structural geologist. His sound scientific and professional approach combined with his tireless efforts and fresh ideas resulted in him rapidly being made a principle member of the “Priorities Committee”, a group involved with the highest level of decision-making in the Exploration Division. He led a geological research project on the structural significance of buried fault zones and their influence on the accumulation and migration of hydrocarbons in the Fars Region of the Zagros. His work and the resulting insights into the origin and reactivation of basement transfer faults resulted in new opportunities for exploration of the Lower Palaeozoic. His detailed geometrical analyses of fold structures also provided a basis for new exploration throughout the Zagros. Within NIOC Exploration, his professional work is highly regarded --  none more so than his most recent publication (2007) based on a presentation at a Conference held at the Geological Society of London (Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ.  272),  in which the depth of his knowledge of Zagros geology is well illustrated.

Mohammad collaborated with researchers from the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Norway, and was able to attract many researchers from across the World to Iran. Over the past year, he worked closely with the staff of the EAGE to plan and prepare for the Shiraz Conference. He organized and co-led an outstanding fieldtrip to the Zagros Mountains, one of the highlights of the event. This was the first International Petroleum Conference to be held in Iran, and its success was in no small part a result of Mohammad’s efforts.

As a person, Mohammad was quiet, polite and dignified; outside of geology, his main focus in life was his family to whom he was completely devoted. He was admired and respected by his friends and colleagues, and he will be remembered both as a gifted young geologist and a loyal friend.

Shahram Sherkati

National Iranian Oil Co.

John Cosgrove

Imperial College

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