Research interests

Seismic waves arise from a range of sources, including natural events such as earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions, making them useful to study natural hazards as well as Earth structure and dynamics. Seismic signals are also generated by human and animal activities, informing us about their behaviour and linking seismology to social science and zoology. I enjoy working across these disciplines, using seismic waves to understand the world around us.

Landscapes of the deep Earth

Most of my research has focused on the Earth's deep interior, where intriguing landscapes can be found, that reflect the complex processes at work since the formation of our planet. To image these landscapes, surface recordings of seismic waves generated by earthquakes are combined using techniques similar to those in medical CT imaging. These images allow us to answer fundamental questions about Earth's interior, such as: How has the Earth evolved to its present day state? Does the Earth's mantle behave more like a boiling pan of water, heated by the core and cooled at the surface, or more like a gigantic lava lamp due to large-scale compositional variations? These questions are important as they inform us about dynamic processes within the Earth that are relevant for its habitability and help us to understand how the evolution of the Earth differs from other planets in our solar system.

In my research, I have addressed these questions by using seismic observations of normal modes, the free oscillations of the Earth that occur after large magnitude earthquakes. Observations of these place powerful constraints on the velocity and density structure of the lower mantle. I combine my seismological findings with the results from geodynamical models and insights from mineral physics, with the aim to unravel the long-term evolution and inner workings of our planet.

Installing seismometers in Kenya

Over the last few years, I have started to work more on practical applications of seismology, installing seismic instruments in Kenya to monitor different elephant behaviours, as well as running Raspberry Shake instruments around London for studying anthropogenic seismic noise. At the moment I am also interested in studying background seismicity and the sources of seismic noise in urban environments, following the longest seismic noise quiet period on record during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Current research projects

  • Density structure of the lower mantle and implications for mantle dynamics
  • Multi-scale topography of the Earth's core-mantle boundary
  • Backus-Gilbert tomography of isotropic and anisotropic mantle structure
  • Impact of approximations in normal mode modelling
  • Comparions of geodynamic and tomographic models of the mantle
  • Seismological proxies for phase transitions in the deep mantle
  • Variations in anthropogenic seismic noise sources
  • Background seismicity & seismic noise in London

Research opportunities

Opportunities for PhD studies are generally advertised in December for a start in the next academic year, with the application deadlines typically in January. Applications are primarily invited through the Oxford Doctoral Training Programme.

Researchers looking for postdoctoral opportunities should get in touch to discuss project ideas and funding opportunities. I have ample experience with fellowship and funding applications and can provide advice. It is wise to start discussions early (a year or more in advance) due to funder deadlines.

Undergraduate or other students, looking for a MSc project or a short-term research experience in seismology, please get in touch with me and we can discuss possible projects.

Research funding

    RS logo What makes a city move?
    Royal Society Research Grant (2022 - 2023)

    RS logo Enhanced Research Expenses for URF
    Royal Society (2022 - 2024)

    Leverhulme logo Seismic noise sources and background seismicity in London
    Philip Leverhulme Prize, Leverhulme Trust (2022 - 2025)

    NERC logo Mantle Circulation Constrained (MC2): A multidisciplinary 4D Earth framework for understanding mantle upwellings
    NERC Large Grant, led by PI Huw Davies (2020 - 2024)

    RS logo Robust characterisation of large-scale flow in the deep mantle
    Royal Society Enhancement Award (2018 - 2021)

    RS logo Mapping seismological landscapes in the deep Earth
    Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2018 - 2024)

    Univ logo Multi-scale imaging of the core-mantle boundary topography
    Junior Research Fellowship, University College Oxford (2015 - 2018)

    ETH logo Imaging the Earth across the scales
    ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014 - 2016)

    Pembroke logo Nahum Scholarship in Physics & Graduate Studentship
    Pembroke College Cambridge (2010 - 2014)

    Utrecht logo System Earth Modelling Scholarship
    Utrecht University (2008 - 2010)

Current DEEPSCAPE members

  • Justin Leung: Temperature and composition of the lower mantle (Oxford PhD starting Oct 2022, co-supervisor)
  • Adrian Mag: Multi-scale CMB topography (Oxford PhD starting Oct 2022, primary supervisor)
  • Miguel Pinto-Ward: Seismicity and seismic noise in London (Oxford PhD starting Sep 2022, primary supervisor)
  • Federica Restelli: Global Backus-Gilbert seismic tomography (RHUL PhD since 2019, primary supervisor)

Former students

  • Harriet Godwin: Multi-scale studies of lower mantle structure (Oxford PhD 2015 - 2020, co-supervisor)
  • Alice Turner (now PhD student at University of Oxford): Spin transition effect in global tomography (UCL summer 2019, primary supervisor)
  • Ana Pagu (now PhD student at University of Oxford): Tomographic proxies for post-perovskite (Oxford Master's 2017 - 2018, primary supervisor)
  • Judit Gonzalez Santana (now PhD student at Penn State University): Body wave studies of CMB topography (Oxford Master's 2016 - 2017, primary supervisor)
  • William Rees (now at KPMG UK): Seismic signals of elephant behaviour and communication (Oxford Master's 2016 - 2017, co-supervisor)

Recent collaborators


Last update: May 2022 | Home | About | Research | Publications | Downloads | Outreach | Contact