Associate Professor Receives Prestigious Seismology Society of America Award


Earlier this month, Nevada Seismological Laboratory Associate Professor Daniel Trugman was named the recipient of the 2023 Charles F. Richter Early Career Award. The award is named after Charles Richter, who developed the Richter scale, and recognizes a member’s outstanding contribution to the goals of the Seismological Society of America early in their career.

What are some of your main scientific interests?

My research is really at the crossroads between earthquake seismology and data science. In my research group, we are striving to solve some of the most fundamental questions in earthquake science. How do earthquakes start, and what causes earthquake ruptures to spread and eventually stop? How do earthquake failure properties differ within and between different fault zones, and what does this mean for the hazards they pose to nearby communities? To study these issues, I am developing new computational and statistical methods for analyzing large datasets of earthquake waves. Earthquake seismology has been, and always has been, a data-rich science, and many of the most important breakthroughs have come from scientists who have come up with smart new ways of thinking and using new datasets. This is what I aim to do in my research, and in particular apply new ideas from the data and computer science communities to deepen our understanding of the physics of earthquakes.

What impact can your research have on society and your discipline?

The fact that my research can have a direct impact on society is one of the main reasons why I became interested in the study of earthquakes. Thousands of earthquakes occur every day around the world, but there are still many unanswered questions about the physical processes that cause them. In my research, I am particularly interested in understanding how the properties of earthquake ruptures affect the level of shaking experienced by people who feel them.

This line of research is important for seismic hazard analysis, which is used in building and infrastructure design codes. It is also important for earthquake early warning systems, which must automatically deliver notifications to smartphones, utilities and hospital systems in seconds or minutes that an earthquake has occurred and that a strong shaking is expected. Reno is located quite close to some of the active fault systems along the eastern Sierra, so the research my team is doing could have a direct impact on the surrounding community.

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

In many ways, working at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory is a dream job for people like me. It has a rich history and an outstanding track record of cutting-edge scientific research, and I just hope I can live up to it as my career progresses. The main mission of SeismoLab is to monitor earthquakes in the state of Nevada, but with this responsibility comes great research opportunities for the use of “big data” in seismology. We operate hundreds of seismic stations across the state and partner with the US Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, the Nevada Homeland Security Service, and many local energy and mining companies on dozens of high impact projects. In fact, a lot is happening in a variety of areas, so there is always a new challenge on the horizon. Nevada is a very seismically active state, and we still have a lot to learn about important earthquake processes and their implications for hazard. My career at the University of Nevada at Reno is just beginning, but I am very excited about the future.

Last thoughts…

The Seismological Society of America was founded in response to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that devastated the city and surrounding area. Since then, it has grown to thousands of members around the world who form a strong community of scientists united by the common goal of using seismology to help society. Being recognized by the Seismological Society for my contributions is really important because many of its members have played a key role in helping me along the way. I am very grateful for their support, as well as for the support of my colleagues here at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, and throughout the university. Seismology, like many other disciplines, is actually a team sport, so this award reflects their dedication and support, just like everything I’ve done.

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