Fan-Chi Lin

Charles F. Richter Early Career Award | 2015 Recipient

Fan-Chi Lin has distinguished himself by the wide range of his research contributions, particularly in the area of using ambient noise to construct images of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle.

Since his Ph.D. was awarded in 2009, Lin has become one of the originators and leading experts on this type of imaging. Lin is one of a few researchers around the world to establish seismic tomography as a discipline with strong theoretical foundations and practical applications. Similar to how a CAT scan uses special x-rays to reconstruct an image of the internal human body, Lin and others use ambient seismic noise to reconstruct internal structures of the Earth. Ambient seismic noise is often thought of as the “junk” signal captured by a seismometer, a signal caused by ocean waves, winds and other atmospheric events and even the movements of traffic or heavy machinery.

Lin has published 26 papers since receiving his Ph.D., demonstrating ways to use ambient seismic noise and surface waves excited by earthquakes to map out structures in the crust and upper mantle with unprecedented accuracy and with meaningful estimates of uncertainty.

In 2013, Lin and his colleagues showed how seismic waves that travel through the Earth’s core could be identified using coda waves, the diffuse, scattered seismic energy signals, created by large earthquakes. Their method has been used to create a detailed new image of the Earth’s inner core. Also in 2013, Lin and colleagues published a paper that provided images of the shallow crust around a Southern California fault zone, using ambient noise collected by a petroleum services company.In 2015, Lin and colleagues used seismic tomography to demonstrate the extent and detailed shape of a vast magma “plumbing system” below Yellowstone National Park’s “supervolcano.”

Lin received his bachelor’s degree in 2000 from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and his master’s degree in 2005 from Drexel University, before completing his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was awarded a Director’s postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech’s Seismological Laboratory in 2011.