I am the Tutorial Fellow in Earth Sciences at Exeter College, and an Associate Professor of Geophysics in the Earth Sciences Department at Oxford.
I grew up in Germany and obtained a master’s degree in engineering in 2002, jointly from the University of Karlsruhe and the ENSIEG of Grenoble, France. Research for my M.Eng. thesis project took me to the Bell Labs in New Jersey, and I stayed in the United States to obtain a Ph.D. from Princeton University, moving into the field of geoscience. After graduation in 2008, I took a position as assistant professor in geophysics at the University of Munich (LMU), which I held until moving to Oxford in 2013.
I am interested in the structure of the earth’s interior from crust to core. The purpose is to understand its heat and material flows, which move slowly on a human timescale, but very vigorously on geological time scales. At the surface, these geodynamic processes manifest themselves in the motions of tectonic plates, the constant creation and destruction of crust, corresponding volcanism, and the long-term cycling of minerals and chemical elements. Together with heat input from the sun, they ultimately create a habitable planet.
My primary tool is seismic tomography, an imaging technique that computes three-dimensional maps of the earth’s interior, mapping out anomalously hot, cold, or dense regions that drive convective overturns of the mantle. The approach is similar to biomedical imaging methods such as x-ray tomography, except that seismologists work with naturally occurring earthquakes as signal sources, and a global network of seismometers as receivers. After much computing and signal processing, we interpret our 3-D maps of the planet’s interior in terms of geodynamic convection, and make links to large-scale surface processes such as mountain building or volcanism. I also do field experiments that contribute to global data acquisition networks of the seismological community, including novel recordings on the ocean-bottom.
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