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Geological sciences professor wins prestigious Seismology Society of America award

Geological sciences professor wins prestigious Seismology Society of America award

Earlier this month, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering Daniel Trugman was named the recipient of the 2023 Charles F. Richter Early Career Award. The award is named for Charles Richter, who developed the Richter scale, and honors outstanding contributions to the goals of the Seismological Society of America by a member early in their career.

What are some of your main research interests?

My research is really at the interface between earthquake seismology and data science. In my research group, we aim to tackle some of the most fundamental questions in earthquake science. How earthquakes get started, and what causes earthquake ruptures to propagate and eventually arrest? How do earthquake rupture properties vary within and between different fault zones, and what does this mean for the hazards they pose to nearby communities? To study these problems, I develop new computational and statistical techniques to analyze large datasets of earthquake waveforms. Earthquake seismology is, and always has been, a very data-rich science, and many of the most important breakthroughs have come from scientists figuring out clever new ways of thinking about and leveraging emerging datasets. That’s what I strive to do in my research, and in particular to apply new ideas from the data and computer science communities to advance our understanding of the physics of earthquakes.

What are the impacts your research can have on society and your discipline?

The potential for my research to have a direct impact on society is one of the main reasons I became interested in studying earthquakes. Thousands of earthquakes occur every day, all across the world, but there are still many unresolved questions about the physical processes that drive them. In my research I am particularly interested in understanding how the properties of earthquake ruptures affect the level of shaking experienced by the people who feel them.

This line of research has important implications for seismic hazard analyzes that are used in building and infrastructure design codes. It is also essential for earthquake early warning systems, which aim to automatically deliver seconds-to-minutes notice to smartphones, utilities and hospital systems that an earthquake has occurred and that strong shaking is on the way. Reno is positioned rather close to some active fault systems along the eastern Sierra, so the research that my team carries out can have a direct impact on the surrounding community.

What excites you most about working for the Nevada Seismological Laboratory?

In many ways, working for the Nevada Seismological Laboratory is really a dream job for someone like me. It has a rich history and outstanding track record of doing cutting-edge science that I just hope I can live up to as my career progresses. The SeismoLab has a core mission to perform earthquake monitoring for the State of Nevada, but with that responsibility comes a tremendous research opportunity for leveraging “big data” in seismology. We operate hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state, and partner with the US Geological Survey, Department of Energy, Nevada National Security Site, and many local energy and mining companies on dozens of high-impact projects. There is really a lot going on in so many different realms, so there is always a new challenge on the horizon. Nevada is a very seismically active state, and we have a lot yet to learn about the important earthquake processes and their implications for hazard. My career at the University of Nevada, Reno is just getting started, but I couldn’t be more excited about the future.

Final thoughts…

The Seismological Society of America was founded in response to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that devastated the city and surrounding region. It has since grown to have thousands of members all across the world that form a strong community of scientists aligned with a common goal to use seismology to help society. Being recognized by the Seismological Society for my contributions is truly meaningful because so many of its members have played a key role in helping me along the way. I’m really grateful for their support, as well as that of my colleagues here in the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, and all across the University. Seismology, like many other disciplines, is really a team sport, so this award reflects their dedication and support as much as anything I have done.

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