Friday symposium a campus homecoming for two distinguished alumni


Susan Cunningham, senior vice-president, Gulf of Mexico, Africa and Frontier Ventures at Noble Energy Inc., will visit campus this week to formally introduce the new Susan Cunningham Chair in Geology, Janok Bhattacharya. Both are McMaster alumni.

Susan Cunningham, a top executive at Noble Energy and a McMaster alumna, will kick off a day-long campus symposium Friday involving sedimentary and petroleum geoscientists from across Canada.

The event will also serve to formally introduce Janok Bhattacharya — a McMaster alumnus and renowned researcher at the University of Houston — who was recently named the inaugural holder of the Susan Cunningham Chair in Geology.

In 2010, Cunningham announced a $1-million personal gift to establish the chair in the Faculty of Science. Among other duties, Bhattacharya will lead cutting-edge research initiatives in sedimentary geology and help build the program by attracting top students and faculty to the University.

“Susan is a strong supporter of the McMaster community, and she’s very influential in her line of work,” said Carolyn Eyles, director of McMaster’s Integrated Science Program and a coordinator of Friday’s symposium.

“She has generated a spark of interest in sedimentary and petroleum exploration, and she’s inspiring a whole new generation of McMaster students to pursue careers in the field.”

Cunningham graduated from McMaster in 1979 with a degree from the Faculty of Social Sciences, majoring in geography and geology. Following a remarkable two decades as a geologist with Amoco International and Statoil, she was named senior vice-president of Houston-based Noble Energy in 2001.

Earlier this year, Cunningham’s role at the company expanded to senior vice-president, Gulf of Mexico, Africa and Frontier Ventures. She currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Paul Koeller, and the couple’s two sons.

As part of Friday’s proceedings, Bhattacharya will deliver a presentation entitled, “Unit bars and their role in the construction of fluvial and deltaic sand bodies.” His past research efforts have focused heavily on investigating the sequence stratigraphy and 3D facies architecture of shallow marine, paralic, and fluvial depositional systems.

Following more than two decades abroad, Bhattacharya is excited about his return to McMaster.

“I feel thrilled and honored to be the inaugural Susan Cunningham Chair in Geology,” he said. “Susan and I met before I accepted the position to talk about what it meant to her, and to me. We both agreed that it would be a challenge and a great opportunity. Susan helped me make the choice to move back to Canada after 21 years in the United States.”

Bhattacharya graduated from McMaster in 1989 with a PhD in geology. He previously served as the Robert Sheriff Professor of Sequence Stratigraphy, Deltaic Systems at the University of Houston.

Related Stories