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Bilal Haq

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Bilal Haq

In His Own Words

That Magic Moment

My most important career decision was to work on worldwide stratigraphy to document the past sea-level changes. The results of that research impacted many fields of geology from geodynamics to paleoclimatology and oceanography.

Challenges to Come

The next challenge is to reconcile the differing views of the geophysical and sedimentary geology communities on the subject of global stratigraphy and Eustasy. Their views are converging and we are starting to understand each other better. It won’t be long before we have a unified view of how the Earth works.


I spent a year of sabbatical at Paris VI many years ago and I was honored when UPMC appointed me Associate Research Professor a few years back. I have been collaborating with UPMC members ever since and hope to continue more actively in the future—as much as 50 percent of my time.

Words for the Up & Coming

Never be afraid to ask the tough questions. Challenge your professors and their ideas, ask them for evidence for their opinions, thus helping them become better teachers. Science should be a never ending pursuit of truth!


professor Bilal Haq

Presented by Maurice Renard, Professor Emeritus

It is a great pleasure for me to present today Professor Bilal Haq, who is not only a great friend of UPMC but also one of the leading researchers in the field of marine geosciences.


Professor Haq has had a very long relationship with UPMC and France, since we met in 1979 when he was a guest professor at the Laboratory of Geology of Sedimentary Basins, then headed by Professor Charles Pomerol. Since then, he has continued to develop partnerships with French researchers, particularly with members of the Pierre and Marie Curie University, where he has been an Associate Research Professor since 2010.


Bilal’s career can be characterized by success in three areas: in academic research (including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), in oil industrial research (Exxon Research Department) and the administration of the international research as Director of Marine Geosciences at the National Science Foundation.


I think we cannot truly know Bilal Haq without understanding that he’s a “world citizen”. His educational background is impressive and mirrors the international impact he would have in his career. Bilal was born in 1948 in the Indian Himalayan region, he had his primary and secondary education in Pakistan, he then got a degree in geology at the University of Vienna in 1965 and in the same year obtained a German diploma the University of Heidelberg. He then joined the University of Stockholm where he received his PhD in 1967 and his doctorate in science in 1972 before becoming a researcher at Woods Hole in the USA. This explains why he speaks English, German, Swedish, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, plus some French and Norwegian.


From a scientific point of view, Bilal started as a micropaleontologist, specialized in calcareous nannoplankton, and in this discipline he quickly gained an international reputation. In 1978, in collaboration with the foraminifera specialist Anne Boersma, he published Introduction to Marine Micropaleontology, which became the bible for all micropaleontologists and was reissued by user demand in 1998.


This specialization in plankton naturally led to marine geology. He conducted many oceanic research trips in different ocean drilling programs. Bilal quickly understood that micropaleontology should not be a goal in itself and that the real problem was to understand the spatio-temporal arrangement of sedimentary series on ocean margins. His activity then turned towards paleoocenaography, paleoclimatology and seismic stratigraphy.


With Peter Vail and a team from Exxon, he participated in the great scientific adventure of sequence stratigraphy, which is the concept that fluctuations in sea level play an important role in the organization of sedimentary deposits. This concept has profoundly renewed research in sedimentary geology over the last thirty years, both academically by providing a common framework for thinking about all sedimentary geology disciplines, and at the industry level where its predictive nature has made it a tool for the location of potential hydrocarbon reservoirs.


In 1987, Bilal Haq published, with his staff, the chart of sea level changes over the past 250 million years. This publication is part of the list of 100 publications that have had the greatest influence on the development of earth sciences and Bilal is listed in the company of those few, important researchers such as Lyell, Darwin, Hutton or Milankovitch. The publication of this chart has also nurtured the international research because of the controversies it provoked, particularly in the magnitude of the sea level changes proposed.


Several international programs and approximately one hundred theses were designed to test the validity of the model proposed by Haq et al. The impact was far beyond the sedimentary area since geophysics showed that regional variability is related to modulation of subsidence or differential elevations in response to mantle flow through the asthenosphere.


I will not list the titles and distinctions that Bilal Haq has received, which are both numerous and prestigious, but I will simply conclude with the fact that he was a director of one of the most active departments of in the NSF, he played a major role years in the development of marine geosciences and at the 2004 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, his peers awarded him the Shepard medal for “outstanding contributions and service to the ocean sciences.”


Finally, as part of his activity for UNESCO and the World Bank, he also plays an important social role for developing countries by controlling or initiating a series of programs on the impact of sea-level rise on the economies of these countries.


It is a great honor for Pierre and Marie Curie University to welcome Professor Bilal Haq into its community of Doctors Honoris Causa. Bilal, thank you for your friendship and your commitment to our University and to our country.