Fenglin Niu Named Fellow of American Geophysical Union Rice News | News and Media Relations

Seismologist at Rice University Fenglin Niu has spent nearly 30 years pioneering techniques to create increasingly detailed images of Earth’s interior. This is fundamental research that has helped us understand the deep Earth and has led to efforts to detect earthquakes before they happen. Recognizing its importance, Niu’s peers inside American Geophysical Union to have elected him as a member of AGUone of the biggest awards in the field.

Fenglin Niu 2017 in May at a well site near Parkfield, California, that is part of the National Science Foundation’s San Andreas Fault Observatory Deep Experiment. (Image courtesy of Fenglin Niu/Rice University)

Niu, a professor at Rice’s department Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, is one of 54 AGU fellows elected in September. AGU is the world’s largest association for Earth and space sciences, with nearly 60,000 members in 137 countries. Less than 0.1% of its members are elected members.

Own quoteAGU honored Niu “for leading-edge high-resolution seismic imaging of the Earth from the crust to the core.”

Niu joined Rice in 2002. after 1997 received his PhD and BS degrees in geophysics from the University of Tokyo and in 1988, respectively. at the University of Science and Technology of China. He has published more than 170 peer-reviewed articles, incl in 2003 nature study which used 10 years of data from the heavily instrumented section of the San Andreas Fault in California show that it is possible measure the subtle seismic changes that precede earthquakes. Research conducted in 2008also published in Nature, suggested proof-of-principle demonstration that this technique can detect telltale signs of an earthquake up to 10 hours before it occurs.

Niu said his research group is building multi-scale images of Earth’s deep interior to better understand the underlying chemical and physical processes. He and his colleagues focused on mapping “fine-scale seismic structures near boundary layers” between, for example, the Earth’s crust and mantle or its mantle and core, because such layers “hold the keys to many fundamental questions in hard Earth science.”

Being selected as an AGU Fellow is a personal honor, but Niu said it is shared with many of the students and postdoctoral researchers who have been part of his research group.

“It’s amazing to see (recognize) our work on Earth’s boundary layers, especially the discoveries about mid-mantle reflectors and the hemispheric structure of the inner core,” Niu said.

AGU will formally recognize Niu and others in 2023. colleagues at the union’s annual meeting, AGU23San Francisco in December

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