Stanford University
Tianze Liu and AGU logo

Tianze Liu receives AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award

Liu’s improvement of the Virtual Deep Seismic Sounding (VDSS) methodology overcomes problems that had misled earlier researchers and paves the way for understanding other seismically active areas.

BY Danielle Torrent Tucker
ClockJanuary 29, 2019

Stanford Earth graduate student Tianze Liu has been selected to receive an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The prestigious award is given to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. Typically, only the top 3 to 5 percent of student participants who present their research at the annual AGU Fall meeting are awarded an OSPA.

Liu presented his research to develop an improved methodology for mapping crustal structures that affect seismicity at the 2018 fall meeting in December, which was held in Washington, D.C.

“I was quite surprised right after learning that I won, as based on past records it is very difficult for poster presenters to win the award,” said Liu, a PhD candidate in the Geophysics Department at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “I was totally exhausted at the end of that day because I had been standing and lecturing in front of my poster for over four hours without leaving for a single minute, but in the end it all paid off.”

Liu’s research at Stanford began as an attempt to understand a natural laboratory, the Ordos Plateau of north China. The area is the source of recent interests about the evolution of the oldest continental nuclei, or cratons: large areas of basement rock from which scientists speculate continents have grown. In 2014 at his first-ever AGU talk, Liu won an OPSA award for early analysis of the crustal structure of this area.

“Cratons in general have very low seismicity. However, today’s north China is very seismically active, as evidenced by the 1976 magnitude 7.6 Tangshan Earthquake, the deadliest event in 20th century with a death toll amounting to about 250,000,” Liu said. “One key question we want to understand is how north China evolved from a stable craton into a seismically active region.”

Liu showed that previous claims about crustal structure suffered from methodological error and proceeded to improve the Virtual Deep Seismic Sounding (VDSS) methodology to overcome problems that had misled earlier researchers. His technique extracts previously unavailable information about crustal structure and paves the way for the wider application of VDSS to Earth imaging using dense seismic arrays, or a system of seismometers deployed with dense spacing, according to Simon Klemperer, a professor of geophysics and Liu’s doctoral research advisor.

“To win one OSPA may be considered good fortune; to win two is testament to Tianze’s tenacious pursuit of complexities in his chosen seismic methodology and his clear exposition of his refined approach that will lead others to implement his ideas,” Klemperer said.

Media Contacts

Danielle T. Tucker

School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

dttucker, 650-497-0947

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