The Charles F. Richter Early Career Award

cfrichterThe Charles F. Richter Early Career Award honors outstanding contributions to the goals of the Society by a member early in her or his career. No more than one Richter Award may be given each calendar year. The Richter award is presented at the annual meeting following the year of the award.

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Call for Nominations

Nominee Criteria

Nominees must satisfy the following criteria: 1) they must be Regular or Honorary Members of the Society in good standing and 2) their most recent academic degree must have been awarded no more than six years prior to April 18 of the year in which they are selected for the award. Family or medical leave, if provided by the candidate's institution and taken by the nominee during this six-year period, can extend the six-year period.

Nomination Procedure

Any member of the SSA who is not on the Richter Award Subcommittee may nominate a candidate for the Richter Award. A nomination package must be submitted to the Secretary of the Society at the address below no later than 15 February of each year.

The nominating package should contain:
(1) A letter of nomination no more than two pages long summarizing the nominee's significant accomplishments; 
(2) A curriculum vitae including bibliography;
(3) Two to four supporting letters, each of no more than two pages long.  At least two letters must come from individuals who are not currently employed at the nominee's current institution or the institution from which the nominee received her or his most recent degree; and
(4) An eligible birth date and date of degree.

Please note that the principal nominator should integrate the nomination letters and send ONE nomination package to ensure that all letters of endorsement reach the decision makers on time. Questions may be directed to Peter Shearer (, chair of the Honors Committee. Please list Richter Award - Question as the subject line.

Nominations for all SSA awards are solicited from the members to be sent to the SSA Secretary, by the due date of 15 February. Electronic submissions should be e-mailed in text, .PDF or .DOC files to <>. While electronic submissions are encouraged, hard copies may be mailed to:

Secretary, Seismological Society of America
c/o Nan Broadbent
400 Evelyn Ave, Suite 201
Albany, CA 94706-1375
Fax: +1-510-525-7204

The Charles F. Richter Early Career Award Recipients

2017: Annemarie Baltay

"Through a combination of source studies and ground motion prediction research, [Baltay] has carved a niche for herself that is unique in seismology for her generation," said Gregory Beroza, the Wayne Loel Professor of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University and Baltay's Ph.D. advisor, noting that her work to date has made "tangible contributions to increasing seismic safety."

Annemarie Baltay's research has focused on various methods for estimating earthquake source parameters — in particular, radiated seismic energy and stress drop — and how they control the amplitudes of strong ground motion as functions of ground-motion frequency and earthquake magnitude. In her thesis work, she analyzed data from recent great earthquakes including the 2004 magnitude 9.1 Sumatra and 2011 magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-oki events .

As part of a "new wave" of interest in earthquake source parameters, Baltay has made valuable contributions to the Next Generation of Attenuation (NGA) engineering seismology ground motion models and the Extreme Ground Motion (ExGM) project, her colleagues noted in their support for her Richter award.

Baltay's ability to bridge the gap between the seismological evidence underlying ground motion prediction equations and the application and refinement of those equations required for engineering applications, through her work with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center, among others, was also praised by her colleagues.

Baltay received her undergraduate degree in applied mathematics with a concentration in geophysics in 2005 from Yale University, and her master's and Ph.D. in geophysics from Stanford University in 2009 and 2011, respectively. She served as a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow at USGS Menlo Park from 2013 to 2015.

2016: Diego Melgar Moctezuma

Diego Melgar

Early in his career, seismologist Diego Melgar Moctezuma has already made significant research contributions in the areas of earthquake rupture and early warning, tsunami modeling, and community outreach regarding earthquakes and geosciences.

Melgar, a 32-year-old assistant researcher at the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, "has already distinguished himself as a top researcher of first-order problems in seismology, geodesy, tectonophysics and natural hazards," said Yehuda Bock, a Distinguished Researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "His work is also distinguished by its significant societal benefits."

Throughout his career, Melgar has shown a remarkable ability to synthesize data from multiple sources to learn more about constraining the source of earthquakes and improving understanding of the physics of earthquake rupture; computing earthquake magnitudes from scaling of peak ground displacement from high-sample-rate GPS; and developing the methodology behind a rapid and efficient tsunami warning system. He has published more than 22 peer-reviewed papers in top journals, as the first author on half of these papers.

Melgar's work has found direct relevance to applications such as the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system for the U.S. west coast and local tsunami warnings for the Pacific Rim by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tsunami Warning Centers. He is also in charge of maintaining the Bay Area Regional Deformation Network, a 32-station, real-time GPS network that monitors crustal deformation in the region for earthquake hazard reduction studies and earthquake response.

In his nomination for the award, several of Melgar's colleagues noted his considerable skills at sharing seismological research with a variety of audiences in presentations, workshops, seminars and media interviews.

"I'm humbled by this award, to be recognized by such a distinguished community of scientists is a great honor that I never imagined when I embarked in a career in seismology," said Melgar.

Melgar received his undergraduate degree in geophysics in 2009 from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and his master's (2010) and Ph.D. (2014) degrees in geophysics from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

2015: Fan-Chi Lin

Fan-Chi Lin

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.

2014: Victor Tsai

Still early in his career, Victor Tsai has already established himself as a leading seismologist, conducting pioneering research in the emerging fields of ambient noise and glacier and river seismology. Tsai has published 39 peer-reviewed papers that reflect his diverse research interests and novel approaches to tackling challenging questions in seismology, glaciology and mechanics.

For his work, the 32-year old Tsai will be awarded the Seismological Society of America's (SSA) Charles F. Richter Early Career Award at the organization's annual meeting held April 21–23 in Pasadena, California. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the goals of the Society by a member early in his or her career.

An Assistant Professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since 2011, Tsai earned his doctorate in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University where he worked on a broad range of challenges, including detecting ice quakes (or glacial “earthquakes”) and understanding the physical mechanisms associated with these glacier and ice sheet events. In a comprehensive study of 184 ice quakes in Greenland, Tsai linked these events to the calving of major icebergs from the ice sheet terminus, upending conventional thought on the physical origin of these seismic events.

Later in his graduate student career, he focused on seismic noise correlation between neighboring seismic stations and its relation to seismic properties between them, a subject that he continued to pursue as a Mendenhall Postdoc at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, and now at Caltech.

Tsai has developed new applications related to seismic noise theory. In the emerging field of river seismology, for example, Tsai devised and applied a novel theory to use seismic observations of noise generated by sediment flow to estimate bed load transport in rivers. Bed load transport is an important quantity to measure for a number of fields, including hydrology, glaciology, engineering and river ecology, and is difficult and time-intensive to measure accurately with direct sampling methods. His work represents the first attempt to predict the seismic spectra associated with the physical process of rocks impacting the riverbed as they move downstream. In addition to his work in glaciology and river seismology, Tsai has contributed to a number of earthquake studies, providing the theoretical framework to study the complexities of large earthquakes, including the great 2004 Sumatran and the 2011 Tohoku earthquakes.

2013: Vedran Lekic

Seismological SocietySince his early research on deep earthquakes, Vedran Lekic has repeatedly developed new ways of analyzing and modeling seismic data, leading to improved understanding of Earth's large-scale inner strucutre.

For his work, the Seismological Society of America (SSA) has honored the 31 year-old lekic with its Charles F. Richter Early Career Award, wich honors outstanding contributions to the goals of the Society by a member early in her or his career. He received the award at the SSA Annual Meeting, 30 April, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska.

While he was a doctoral student with Barbara Romanowicz at the University of California, Berkeley, Lekic created a new global seismic velocity model by developing a hybrid method for extracting the information containted in full waveforms without the need for commonly used approximations. Lekic's method made practicable very accurate modeling of waveform data, a task that would ordinarily require extraordinary computer time, resulting in higher-resolution images of the Earth's mantle structure, as well as some surprises.

Lekic's postdoctoral research, with Karen Fischer at Brown University, tackled an imaging challenge on the regional scale: using the conversion of shear (S) to compressional (P) waves to image the bottom of the North American plate across Southern California. The resulting images mapped variations in plate thickness at unprecendented resolution and showed that thickness decreased abruptly within regions undergoing rifting, providing a new constraint for understanding a process that shapes continents.

Lekic has authored 15 papers, covering the range of science: from global and regional seismology through planetary sciences. His breadth of research also includes contributions to the new field of neutrino geoscience, which explores subatomic particles (geo-neutrinos) emanating from the decay of radioactive elements (uranium and thorium) deep within Earth's interior. Lekic and colleague Edwin Kite systematically explored how observations of geo-neutrinos – which have the potential to map out the distribution of heat-producing elements within the Earth – can be related to different hypotheses for the origin of large low shear velocity provinces that dominate lower mantle struchtre.

Lekic earned a bachelor's degree in astronomy and astrophysics and Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University and a doctoral degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010-11, he was a National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University.

2012: Katsuichiro Goda

2013RichterEarlyCareerAward_KatsuGoda_HeadshotThe Seismological Society of America (SSA) will honor Katsuichiro Goda for his prolific work to reduce earthquake risk around the world, awarding him the Charles Richter Early Career Award on April 17 at its annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

His multi-disciplinary background has allowed Goda, a lecturer in civil engineering at the University of Bristol and an adjunct professor of earth sciences at The University of Western Ontario, to contribute broadly in the fields of seismic risk assessment, management and mitigation.
“A particularly exciting aspect of Katsu Goda’s work is the way it cuts across boundaries between seismology and engineering,” said Gail M. Atkinson, professor of earth sciences at The University of Western Ontario. "He is well-positioned to make outstanding contributions to the global understanding of seismic hazards and risk, its management and mitigation strategies."

Though still early in his career, Goda has authored 50 papers on a wide range of topics, and many of his publications start by making a new contribution in ground-motion seismology, such as developing new ground-motion equations or formulations, then progress to explore the implications of those findings in engineering practice, such as for the nonlinear response of structures.

His published work includes the development of spatial correlations models for California and Japanese earthquake data, opening new avenues through which quantitative seismic loss estimation studies for urban areas can be carried out. He has also turned attention to lifecycle cost-benefit analysis of buildings with different strengths and energy dissipation devices (for example, tuned mass dampers and base isolation). His works on cost effective and socially acceptable seismic design methodologies, along with earthquake insurance portfolio analysis, point the way to practical solutions in risk mitigation.

Goda has demonstrated, for example, that financial incentives, such as tax cuts and subsidies, can cause a considerable reduction in risk to human and economic loss through a combination of installing seismic isolation devices and purchasing of earthquake insurance. His work allows risk analysts to capture the catastrophic physical nature of earthquake disasters, where significant damage happens to numerous stakeholders simultaneously, and facilitates the study of safe and cost-effective solutions by prioritizing mitigation efforts in more vulnerable areas.

Goda earned his master’s degree in agriculture from Kyoto University and his doctoral degree in civil engineering from The University of Western Ontario.

2011: David Shelly

Awards Lunch-David Shelly-02_HeadshotDavid Shelly has quickly established himself as world leader in observational seismology, having already made a dramatic impact on the field of seismology through his pioneering work to detect and locate deep tectonic tremor. For his work, the Seismological Society of America will honor Shelly with its Charles. F. Richter Early Career Award, which honors outstanding contributions to the goals of the Society by a member early in her or his career.

While a graduate student at Stanford University, Shelly spent one summer in Japan at the University of Tokyo, where he studied a new class of low frequency earthquakes (LFE), which are tiny earthquakes observed almost exclusively during periods of deep tremor. In a groundbreaking paper published by the journal Nature, he described that the LFEs represented shear slip on the plate interface. In a subsequent paper, also published by Nature, he demonstrated that deep tremor consists of a swarm of LFEs, challenging the prevailing theory that suggested tremor was the signature of fluid movement.
As a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey, Shelly focused his research on tremor under the San Andreas Fault, identifying a streak of low frequency earthquakes on the deep extension of the fault and demonstrating that the recurrence of LFEs changes with time.

His more recent papers have concentrated on the locations, physical mechanism, and temporal patterns of the tremor, which may reveal new information about the behavior of faults.

At the 2012 SSA annual meeting, Shelly discussed a new study that looks at recent earthquake swarms deep below Mammoth Mountain in California that offer a unique chance to see how volcanic processes operate in the Earth’s lower crust.

2010: Zhigang Peng

RichterAward-Peng-HeadshotZhigang Peng has made seismological discovery a regular occurrence early in his career. Peng has written 35 peer-reviewed papers that have contributed much to the understanding physics of earthquakes and faults.

An Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology since 2006, Peng’s contributions to earthquake seismology have showcased the traits that have made him an impressive researcher. Peng identified many important physical problems that could be addressed by careful analysis of seismic data, and showed patience and diligence to comb through mountains of records to conduct the research, while also contributing to the understanding of earthquake triggering, non-volcanic tremor, and fault zone structure.

One of his recent papers, “Migration of early aftershocks following the 2004 Parkfield earthquake,” was published in Nature Geoscience in 2009. In that paper, Peng and his graduate research assistant Peng Zhao used a matched-filter technique to examine the aftershocks of the 2004 magnitude 6.0 earthquake along the Parkfield section of the San Andreas Fault. They found almost 11 times as many aftershocks than previously reported in a well-instrumented area. The findings lent credence to the idea that the aftershocks were the result of fault creeping. Currently Peng’s research group is applying this technique to several recent earthquake sequences in California, China, and Japan to detect more aftershocks, and use them to better understand the physical mechanisms of aftershock generation.

Another recent focus of his research is dynamic triggering of microearthquakes and tremor by large distant earthquakes. Working with many international groups, Peng found that dynamic triggering not only occur in plate-boundary regions in California and Taiwan, but also in many intraplate regions in China and elsewhere. In each region he documented conditions required for triggering – important benchmarks in the current struggle to understand tremor and triggering in general. These studies have broad implications, including a better understanding of earthquake nucleation and interaction over long distances.

In addition to continuing to conduct his own research, Peng has helped grow the Geophysics group at Georgia Tech. His leadership helped rebuild the group and attract quality graduate students. He is very active in providing service to the scientific community by organizing meetings and conference sessions, reviewing numerous papers and proposals, and recently serving as the Associate Editor of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. His online tutorial on Seismic Analysis Code is one of the most widely used teaching materials. Peng has also been a frequent commenter in national and international media, educating the public about major seismological events as he did in 2008 following the Wenchuan earthquake in China, in 2010 following the Haiti earthquake, and recently following the magnitude 9 Japan earthquake.

2009: Karen Felzer

Karen-Felzer3This award was presented to Karen Felzer, USGS Pasadena, at the 2010 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. In her relatively young career, Felzer has produced transformative and sometimes valuably controversial research by utilizing statistical approaches to tackle tough seismological questions. Her oft-cited work has constructively challenged previously held theories and reshaped the way earthquake physics is understood. While completing her doctoral work at Harvard, Felzer produced three publications that focused on a statistical approach to earthquake clustering and provided a clearer view of how earthquake sequences work. She confirmed earlier work by others that foreshock-mainshock pairs are, statistically, simply cases where an aftershock is larger than the initial event. This led her to conclude that robust and useful calculations can be made of the probability that a given earthquake will be followed by a larger earthquake across a given time and distance using these empirical aftershock statistics. During her post-doc work, Felzer documented that studies of aftershock rates are often confounded by the inclusion of background events, which is a particular problem as one looks for distant aftershocks. Felzer has also been a key contributor to the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Among other contributions, she created a uniform, long-term seismicity catalog and then used this catalog to estimate expected seismicity rates. The drills developed for the Great Southern California ShakeOut relied on aftershock scenarios that Felzer produced.

2008: Miaki Ishii

IshiiThis award was presented to Miaki Ishii, Harvard University, at the 2009 annual meeting in Monterey, CA. In her young career, Ishii, an assistant professor of earth and planetary science at Harvard University, has made two groundbreaking discoveries in geophysics that have fostered intense debate and subsequent research that has changed the understanding of deep Earth seismology.

Since she entered Harvard to begin her doctoral work in the late 1990s, Ishii has shown a knack for answering big questions. Shortly after her arrival at Harvard, she researched the driving force behind plate tectonics -- lateral variations in mantle density. The research inferred that the slowest parts of the lowermost mantle are denser than average, rather than lighter as most had assumed. The findings flew in the face of the long-held theory of a homogenized mantle and generated significant subsequent research and debate. Recent research is beginning to confirm Ishii’s observations.

Her second groundbreaking find built on her previous study with Harvard’s Adam Dziewonski. Ishii discovered what is now known as the “innermost inner core,” a region 300 kilometers in radius at the center of the Earth that has anisotropic properties distinct from the rest of the inner core.

In addition to her research, Ishii is known for her diligence and has shown a talent for presenting her research well -- a talent that earned her Student Paper Awards from the American Geophysical Union in 1998 and 1999.

2006: Jeanne Hardebeck

photo_hardebeckThis award was presented to Jeanne Hardebeck, USGS, Menlo Park, at the 2007 annual meeting. The Richter Committee noted that, "Hardebeck's contributions to seismological research have been aimed at the central issues in earthquake studies including especially the state of stress and the strengths of faults, problems that have been persistently clouded by speculation and poor quality data. We are highly impressed by her innovative, insightful and unusually thorough work. Her accomplishments include the development of new investigative methods, such as better ways to determine focal mechanisms and stress orientation, methods that have been adopted by others in the seismic community, including people who are themselves experts in such analysis.

In addition, Jeanne Hardebeck's career is notable for her work on practical problems such as fault structure in the Bay Area and the careful USGS investigation following the San Simeon earthquake. Jeanne works well in collaboration with others and often takes intellectual leadership . She is also an excellent speaker, and has stood her ground on a number of strongly debated issues."

2005: Emily Brodsky

brodskyDr. Emily Brodsky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been selected to be the first winner of the Charles F. Richter Early Career Award.

The Richter committee was impressed by the breadth and innovative aspects of Emily Brodsky's research, which is broadly focused on elucidating "how earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides work." She is cited for contributions to (1) earthquake triggering and distant effects of earthquakes, (2) rectified diffusion theory, and (3) fault lubrication theory (fluid pressurization). In her approach to these topics she has been taking full advantage of her strength in physics and fluid mechanics to understand the dynamic processes involved in these systems. For example, she has focused on understanding the nonlinear response of the crust to dynamic stress changes caused by the passage of seismic waves, to account for remotely triggered seismic, volcanic, and hydrologic activity. This is a very exciting and fruitful area, and she is already one of the dominant researchers in this field. She nicely complements theoretical work with data analysis and observational constraints. Only 5 years past her PhD at the time of her selection, she had published 13 papers, 6 as first author.

Emily Brodsky is unusually engaged in science. She takes on challenging projects, presents innovative and sometimes controversial hypotheses, and seeks debate in which she is eager to evaluate and consider any challenges to her initial ideas. Emily Brodsky is a worthy and exceptional young scientist who is a fitting first recipient of the Charles F. Richter Early Career Award.