Graduate Advising

Projects with current Ph.D. students:


Leah Salditch

Earthquake clustering and hazards

I study large earthquake temporal clusters from a probabilistic perspective. This includes simulating paleo-earthquake records that exhibit temporal clusters to understand the broad characteristics and behavior of faults in different tectonic regimes. My research proposes an alternative to the traditional earthquake cycle model that allows a fault’s past to influence its future likelihood of experiencing an earthquake. Additionally, my research looks at qualitative intensity distributions from large historical earthquakes in California, which can facilitate a better understanding of how well current probabilistic seismic hazard assessments reflect the observed record of earthquake intensities and damage.

2017 Seismological Society of America Student Presentation Award

Student Representative, Natural Hazards Section, American Geophysical Union

SSA blog: Seismologists At Work: Leah Salditch

Northwestern News: students gather earthquake memories

Graduate School Spotlight: Leah Salditch


Reece Elling

Midcontinent Rift and Plate Motions

I’m interested broadly in plate tectonics and structural geology, and my research involves studying North America’s Midcontinent Rift (MCR) and how it can provide insight into the continental rifting process in general. It appears that the MCR contains many features found in other rifts as well as passive continental margins, and studying their structure as well as geophysical properties such as gravity and magnetics sheds light on their possible evolutionary paths. I’ve also been involved in working on paleo-plate tectonic reconstructions and paleomagnetics of the Precambrian, and plan to further study apparent polar wander and how changes in direction might be linked to tectonic activity such as rifting.

Student Representative, Geophysics and Geodynamics Division, Geological Society of America


Jamie Neely

Earthquakes and seismic hazards

My research focuses on earthquakes, including both seismic hazards and what they tell us about long-term geologic processes. My previous research has included seismicity studies of lithosphere tearing and subsequent transform fault development along the Australia-Pacific subduction zone. Using Coulomb Failure Stress, b-value, and earthquake rupture property analyses, I examined the transform plate boundary development process. Currently, I am studying the seismic hazard posed by earthquakes along the eastern continental margin of North America by examining what the possible maximum earthquake magnitude might be.

2019 Seismological Society of America Student Presentation Award

Student Representative, Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences Section, American Geophysical Union


Molly Gallahue

Continental rifting and earthquake hazards

I’m studying processes involved in continental rifting. Specifically, I am looking at volumes of magmatic material produced at volcanic rifted margins in comparison to distances from hotspots or pole of plate rotation. Ideally this will allow us to try to better understand how continents rift and why some rifts ultimately fail to evolve to full spreading centers, as happened with North America’s Midcontinent Rift. I’m also working on the California Historical Intensity Mapping Project (CHIMP) which involves reinterpreting previously published felt intensities from large earthquakes in California to create a database of past shaking levels.

Northwestern News:  students gather earthquake memories


I have had the good fortune to work with many outstanding graduate students. I have been a thesis advisor to:

Douglas Wiens; (Ph.D. 1985), now Brookings Distinguished Professor, Washington University in St. Louis; Fellow, American Geophysical Union

Joe Engeln; (Ph.D. 1985), now Assistant Director for Science, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Paul Stoddard; (Ph.D. 1989), now Associate Professor, Northern Illinois University

Don Argus celebrating his election as Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

Gary Acton*; (Ph.D. 1990), now Manager of Technical & Analytical Services, International Ocean Discovery Program, Texas A&M University;  Fellow, Geological Society of America

George Helffrich; (Ph.D. 1990), now Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology Earth-Life Science Institute; Fellow, American Geophysical Union

               Tom Shoberg+; (Ph.D. 1993), now Research Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey

John Weber*+; (Ph.D. 1995), now Professor, Grand Valley State University (Michigan); Fellow, Geological Society of America

John Delaughter+; (Ph.D. 1998), now geophysicist, Devon Oil

Lisa Leffler+*, (Ph.D. 1999), now Earth Science teacher, Fairhope Alabama

Andy Newman+; (Ph.D. 2000), now Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology

Eddie Brooks receiving the 2018 AGU Natural Hazards Section Award for Graduate Research

Fred Marton; (Ph.D. 2001), now Associate Professor, Bergen Community College (New Jersey)

Eryn Klosko; (Ph.D. 2002), now Department Chair and Professor, Westchester Community College (New York)

Alberto Lopez; (Ph.D. 2006), now Associate Professor, University of Puerto Rico

Kimberly Schramm; (Ph.D. 2007), now seismologist, Sandia National Laboratory

Carl Ebeling+; (Ph.D. 2012), now research geophysicist, UC San Diego

Laura Swafford+; (Ph.D. 2013), now geophysicist, Chevron

Miguel Merino+; (Ph.D. 2014), now geophysicist, Chevron

Edward Brooks+; (Ph.D. 2019), now Natural catastrophe specialist, Swiss Re


George Helffrich celebrating his election as Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

I have also worked with:

Paul Lundgren; (Ph.D. 1988), now research scientist and group supervisor,  Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Charles DeMets*; (Ph.D. 1988), now Wegener Professor of Geophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison;  Fellow, American Geophysical Union

Don Argus; (Ph.D. 1990), now Principal Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; Fellow, Geological Society of America and Fellow, American Geophysical Union

John Brodholt; (Ph.D. 1992), now Professor, University College, London

Phil Richardson+;  (Ph.D. 1998), now Intellectual Property Manager, Earth Science & Technical Computing, Chevron

Emily Wolin; (Ph.D. 2015), now Research Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey

*Students whose joint paper with me won an AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award

+Awarded the department`s Horace Scott Award for Outstanding Graduate Research and Potential