Brandon Schmandt, an assistant professor in the University of New Mexico’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was awarded the 2013 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award presented by the Seismology Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) at its 46th annual fall meeting in San Francisco where more than 22,000 Earth and space scientists, educators, students and other leaders convened recently.

Schmandt’s award citation from the AGU read: “this award recognizes your outstanding research, in particular your important contributions to understanding the structure of the North American mantle and its tectonic and geodynamical implications.  The selection committee commended both your top-notch use of seismological methods and your ability to gain insight through integration of your models with a wide variety of geological and geophysical constraints.”  

“It’s an exciting surprise to receive the award,” Schmandt said. “I’m just happy I have the opportunity to keep following my research interests.”

His research interests are rooted in observational seismology, with a primary focus on resolving Earth’s seismic properties to gain insight into the evolving structure of tectonic plates and the convective processes that occur beneath the plates.

One of the programs Schmandt is involved in is a National Science Foundation program titled, EarthScope, a project that deploys thousands of seismic and Global Position System (GPS) receivers and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. EarthScope’s vision is to use North America as a natural laboratory to gain fundamental insight into how Earth operates.

“I use measurements of earthquake waves that have been distorted by irregular structures within the Earth. These measurements allow us to make images of deep activity linked to tectonic movements and volcanism that we can see at the surface,” Schmandt said.

Schmandt earned is Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 2011 and did his postdoctoral work at the Caltech Seismology Lab from 2011-12.

The Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award, established by the Seismology section in 2008 and given to recognize the scientific accomplishments of a young scientist in the field of seismology who is within three years of receiving their Ph.D., is named in honor of a Japanese seismologist, Keiiti Aki. Aki’s many influential contributions include development of the concept of the “seismic moment”—a quantitative means of measuring the amount of energy released by an earthquake and development of seismic tomography methods to create three-dimensional images of Earth’s interior.