Pahroc Range in Nevada

Jason Morgan Early Career Award

Information on the Award

The Jason Morgan Early Career Award is presented annually to an early career scientist for outstanding and significant contributions to tectonophysics through a combination of research, education, and outreach activities. Successful nominees are no more than six years past the completion of their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree by the nomination deadline.

Man hiking in front of a crater

Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the Jason Morgan Early Career Award will receive the following benefits along with the honor:

  • 1
    Award certificate
  • 2
    Recognition in Eos
  • 3
    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year
  • 4
    Complimentary Fall Meeting registration during the year the award is presented


To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must be affiliated with the Tectonophysics section.
  • The nominee must not be more than six years past completion of their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree by the nomination deadline.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Tectonophysics section leadership
    • Jason Morgan Early Career Award Committee members;
    • All full-time AGU staff; and
    • AGU Fellows.

  • Nominators are required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Tectonophysics section leadership;
    • Jason Morgan Early Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Tectonophysics section leadership;
    • Jason Morgan Early Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the Award Committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.


Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:


  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
Sunrise over grand canyon with river

Nomination Package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria. It should include details about the nominee’s outstanding and significant early career contributions to tectonophysics through a combination of research, education, and outreach activities. Nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number and types of publications, and the number published by AGU.
  • Up to three letters of support are recommended. Supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.

The entire nomination package should be merged into one PDF file.

We encourage you to watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our guide on how to submit a successful nomination.

Submission Process

Submissions are reviewed by the Morgan Award Committee. Nominations should be submitted online.
view over a volcanic crater with blue sky


Luca Dal Zilio



Harriet Lau is a very special young scientist. How many geophysicists of her age—or indeed of any age—have developed an entirely new way of imaging Earth structure? Her establishment of “tidal tomography”—mapping large-scale, deep-mantle buoyancy structure through inversion of solid Earth body tide deformations—is a transformative achievement. Moreover, her research using the latest results in experimental rock physics is moving inexorably toward a single model of mantle dissipation that connects anelasticity on seismic timescales to long-term viscosity at million-year timescales—a “grand unified theory” of mantle deformation. Toward these goals, she elegantly extended traditional seismic normal mode theory to tidal and Chandler wobble bands by introducing relaxation modes; combining this with an analysis of a global network of GPS data led to her Nature article “Tidal tomography constrains Earth’s deep-mantle buoyancy.” The paper demonstrates that the lower section of the two large low-shear-velocity provinces (LLSVPs) in the deep mantle below Africa and the Pacific have a density approximately 0.5% higher than the surrounding mantle, a profoundly important contribution to our understanding of the long-term evolution of the Earth system. Two further, seminal contributions quickly followed. First, Harriet discovered a deeply rooted inconsistency in research spanning the past 3 decades relating laboratory results on Earth materials to seismic and geodetic measurements that had severely biased past estimates of intrinsic mantle dissipation. Next, she reanalyzed observations associated with the response of the Earth to the last ice age to establish bounds on the radial profile of mantle viscosity and showed that significant differences in published estimates disappeared when one accounted for the impact on the Earth’s gravitational field of modern glacier melting, thus resolving, finally, a long-standing debate within the ice age research community. Recently, she returned to the quest for a unified dissipation theory by developing a “complex viscosity” parameter that captures dissipative behavior across a spectrum of timescales previously connected, with unsatisfactory results, using ad hoc methods devoid of physical justification. Harriet is applying this impressive body of research to address important unanswered questions, including providing the first self-consistent rheological treatment of plate deformation across seismic to mantle convection timescales, proposing a persuasive new mechanism for the so-called Mid-Pleistocene Transition, and improving modeling of the solid Earth response to modern melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Harriet’s defining qualities are her humility and tireless devotion to her community. She has long served as an important mentor and role model and has become a leading voice in efforts to address the troubling lack of diversity in the geosciences. We feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with such a brilliant scientist and remarkable human being. —Jerry X. Mitrovica, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


It is an immense privilege to be this year’s recipient of the Jason Morgan Early Career Award. I was fortunate enough to have Jason regularly wander into my office as a graduate student, and, among other pearls of wisdom bestowed, he would always correct our research group—made up of non-Americans—on the pronunciation of “pecan” as a proud Georgian. That group, led by my mentor, Jerry Mitrovica, was made up of talented colleagues and friends I continue to lean on for support and advice, and for AGU reunions, to this day. In this short message, I would like to thank the AGU Tectonophysics section, which continues to foster a rich and diverse community of Earth scientists. I would like to thank my nominators for this award: David Al-Attar, Jeroen Tromp, Benjamin Holtzman, and Jerry Mitrovica. Throughout my career, these special scientists have offered me generosity in time and ideas, and I aspire to meet the impact they have had on our community. I would like to thank Rhodri Davies and Saskia Goes, who during my time as a master’s student at Imperial College London, encouraged me to pursue this career, providing me with my first research opportunity. I finally owe three big thank-yous, to Jerry Mitrovica; the University of California, Berkeley; and my own research group. Since my first year as his Ph.D. student, to this date, Jerry has never ceased to support me, advocate for me, and challenge me as a scientist, and now, as a faculty member myself. From his creative research questions, to the integrity in his practice of science and mentorship, I have gained and learned much. I have taken this to UC Berkeley, where I have had the honor of serving within a diverse community of intellectual richness and freedom. I cannot be more grateful to my Ph.D. students, who have courageously pursued ambitious research questions with ingenuity and humility, and who keep me on my toes. With them I continue to learn new things about our planet each day. —Harriet C. P. Lau, University of California, Berkeley

Juliane Dannberg


Carolyn J Boulton


Jacqueline Austermann received the 2019 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is “presented annually to an early career scientist for outstanding and significant contributions to tectonophysics through a combination of research, education, and outreach activities.”



Jacqueline Austermann is a leading figure in efforts to bring insights from solid Earth geophysics and tectonophysics to bear on important, outstanding problems in paleoclimate research.

Her work as an M.Sc. student at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München identified the tectonic driving forces behind both the enigmatic change in Pacific plate motion at 6 Ma and the slowdown in Arabia–Eurasia plate convergence since 5 Ma. With this “solid” training in hand, her initial Ph.D. research at Harvard University addressed a long-standing debate within the ice age climate literature by demonstrating that estimates of the total excess ice volume at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) based on the Barbados coral record were biased low by neglecting the impact on crustal dynamics of the high-viscosity upper mantle slab below the site associated with convergence of the South American and Caribbean plates. Moreover, her revised estimate (~130 meters in units of equivalent global mean sea level rise) has defined an important “missing ice mass” problem because reconstructions of LGM ice volume based on near-field geological records suggest a value of approximately 100 meters. Her next two studies involved modeling of vertical deflections of the crust associated with mantle convection (dynamic topography). First, she demonstrated that bedrock topography in the Wilkes Basin sector of the East Antarctic was approximately 100–200 meters lower during the mid-Pliocene Warm Period (MPWP; ~3 Ma) than at present day due to dynamic uplift, and that ice sheet modeling based on this reconstructed topography was capable of reconciling a local geological record suggestive of instability in the ice sector during the MPWP. Next, she turned to the Last Interglacial (LIG; ~120 ka), the last time the Earth experienced a protracted warming. Jacky showed that a dynamic topography signal was detectable at a statistically significant level in the coral elevation record and that uncertainties in our current estimates of LIG sea level, and associated ice sheet stability, were being significantly underestimated.

Jacky’s contributions have continued unabated through her postdoctoral years at Cambridge University and in her current faculty position at Columbia University. As a notable example, her most recent publication has argued—on the basis of a speleothem record from the Mediterranean corrected for glacial isostatic adjustment and dynamic topography—that global mean sea level during the MPWP peaked approximately 17 meters above present day, implying major instability of polar ice sheets.

Jacky Austermann is a remarkably creative young scientist whose scholarly work provides an outstanding example of the power of interdisciplinary paleoclimate research when practiced through the prism of solid Earth geophysics. She is, in addition, a talented educator and unselfish collaborator who has served as an important mentor to graduate students and PDFs at Harvard, Cambridge, and Columbia. The Jason Morgan Early Career Award of the Tectonophysics section aptly recognizes all of these impressive contributions.

—Jerry X. Mitrovica, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


It is an incredible honor to receive the 2019 Jason Morgan Early Career Award. First and foremost, I would like to thank those who nominated me for their ongoing encouragement and support: Jerry Mitrovica, Maureen Raymo, Giampiero Iaffaldano, and David Rowley. I am humbled by their recognition.

I would also like to thank the AGU Tectonophysics section. While my academic work started with projects in tectonophysics, I have since broadened my scope and often find myself between sections. I therefore feel thankful that my interdisciplinary work is recognized and valued by this community.

Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to receive excellent mentorship and work with brilliant colleagues and collaborators. I would like to thank Jerry Schubert, Hans-Peter Bunge, and Giampiero Iaffaldano, who taught me about Earth’s interior and its manifestations on its surface. I would like to thank Jerry Mitrovica and my committee, who advised me on my graduate work. Jerry guided and inspired me to build bridges between geodynamics and the paleoclimate record. He was always generous with his research ideas and time and fostered a group of collaboration and mutual support. I will be forever thankful for his mentorship and friendship. A special thank-you also goes to David Al-Attar and Nicky White and their groups at Cambridge, who took me in for a postdoc and enforced my geodynamic roots.

Last, I want to thank my group and collaborators at Lamont-Doherty, who have made this place my scientific home and are a constant source of inspiration. I’m excited to embark on research projects with them that span Earth’s deep interior and its surface expression, the sedimentary record, the cycling of ice ages, and the societal impact of sea level change while fostering a community of diversity and inclusion. My friends and collaborators here show me how much I—and we all—still have to learn about the Earth and its climate system, and our place within it.

—Jacqueline Austermann, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.

Ylona van Dinther will receive the 2018 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award is for “significant early career contributions to tectonophysics through a combination of research, education, and outreach activities.”



Ylona van Dinther is one of the few people in her generation who has pushed the research community into “big challenges” directions. She has distinguished herself by conducting groundbreaking research in quantitative tectonophysics.

Ylona developed and applied a new numerical modeling approach, the seismo–thermo–mechanical (STM) technique, which enables innovative cross-disciplinary research, bridging the gap between geodynamics and seismology. Ylona’s work is at the forefront of mechanical modeling linking geodynamic space–time scales of millions of years of slow and broadly distributed regional deformation with seismic space–time scales of rapid and localized rupture processes. Ylona applied the STM approach to subduction zone environments and presented her results in leading scientific journals.

Ylona stands out for her enthusiasm, breadth of knowledge, quantitative skills, and scientific vision, combined with exceptional efficiency in conducting research, participating in collaborative projects, and serving the community. She is also a great teacher and an excellent science communicator, who is able to explain complex scientific problems (and their solutions) in an effective and engaging manner.

It is worth mentioning that Ylona has been able to continue her productive scientific career while being a mother of two babies.

Ylona strongly deserves the Jason Morgan Award. We all look forward to seeing more scientific discoveries from her and will try to keep up with her progress.

—Jean-Philippe Avouac, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; Francesca Funiciello, Università Degli Studi Roma Tre, Rome, Italy; Taras Gerya, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland; and Kelin Wang, Geological Survey of Canada, Sidney, B.C.


I am deeply honored to receive the 2018 Jason Morgan Early Career Award and join the exquisite company of its previous recipients. My sincerest thanks go to Jean-Philippe Avouac, his fellow nomination writers, and the Tectonophysics section for this recognition. This represents the grand finale of an extraordinary year with the birth of my second son, an assistant professor position, graduating students, and various honorable plenary talks, while moving back home. Thanks to all colleagues, family, and friends who made that possible.

In particular, I would like to thank those who significantly influenced my career, which is founded on solid undergraduate studies I received at Utrecht University. At Roma Tre University, my mentor and friend Francesca Funiciello helped me to become the scientist I am today and lighted my wish to bridge from geodynamics into seismology. During my Ph.D., postdoctoral, and senior scientist years at ETH Zürich, I worked among great seismologists, which facilitated me to actually build that bridge. In particular, I remain forever grateful to my mentors at ETH Zürich, Taras Gerya and Andreas Fichtner, for their complementary examples and letting me define my own research, while supporting me, my group, and my family unconditionally. In addition, I have been fortunate to work with bright students who completed this bridge and applied it to demonstrate its power. Last but not least, this would not have been possible without the eternal support of my husband, Bram, and my parents and parents-in-law, who with love and dedication helped with the care for our sons, Bastiaan and Arthur.

From this basis onward, I hope to be able to facilitate the advancement of science and society, among others, by making new generations of students enthusiastic for an engaging journey discovering Earth, academics, and life.

—Ylona van Dinther, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland; and Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands

Romain Jolivet will receive the 2017 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award is for “outstanding and significant early career contributions to tectonophysics through a combination of research, education, and outreach activities.”



It is my great pleasure to write this citation on behalf of Romain Jolivet, who is honored by AGU with the 2017 Jason Morgan Early Career Award. This well-deserved award recognizes that Romain has already significantly contributed to advancing observation of seismic and aseismic fault slip with interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). He has in particular designed and implemented a method using predictions from a reanalysis weather model to model tropospheric effects. The method proved very efficient to correcting the effects that have long been a major impediment to the use of InSAR. His methodological contributions, the availability of SAR time series (in particular from Sentinel-1, which provides global coverage with a 12-day revisit time), and the possibility of combining with Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) data, make it possible to measure the time evolution of fault slip with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. He demonstrated this possibility by revealing a surprisingly rich dynamic in his studies of various faults in Tibet, California, and Anatolia. Romain also contributed to studies of a number of recent earthquakes in which he used a rigorous inverse theory approach to assess the distribution and slip and subsurface fault geometries. Such observations are key to investigating the factors that favor seismic or aseismic fault creep, which remains a very central and poorly understood issue.

Romain is a rigorous, creative, and productive young scientist at the cutting edge of the use of space observation for seismotectonic studies. I look forward to seeing the fruits of his continued effort at extracting new learning from InSAR and GNSS data, which will accumulate in the decades to come. I am confident more stunning results will come out of this promising venture.

—Jean-Philippe Avouac, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena


I would like to thank Jean-Philippe for nominating me as well as those who wrote letters to support this nomination. I feel quite honored by the recognition and the trust he has put in me to pursue my career. I thank the committee and AGU for this award.

I came to study active faults quite by chance, thanks to a number of wonderful researchers I now consider mentors and friends. While studying as an undergrad at École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, France, I discovered the study of active faults and earthquakes with Prof. Rodolphe Cattin (now in Montpellier), who, a year later, pushed me to contact Prof. Roland Bürgmann at UC Berkeley for a research internship. Roland accepted and gave me the fantastic opportunity to lead my first research project, involving the measurement of elastic strain increase along the San Andreas Fault with GPS. In his group, I came to think InSAR was a very powerful tool, and Dr. Cécile Lasserre offered me to join her for a Ph.D. in Grenoble. The scientific environment at Université Joseph Fourier (now named Université Grenoble Alpes), the mountains, and Cécile’s advice guided me for years there. In particular, I got to meet and work with Prof. Gilles Peltzer, UCLA, now a very good friend. Moving to Caltech was then an opportunity to learn more and develop my own projects. I worked closely with Prof. Mark Simons on numerous topics, got to supervise my first students, and learned every day from morning coffee discussions. In Cambridge in the United Kingdom, I had the chance to work with Dr. Alex Copley and joined the COMET community. There, I finally came to work with Jean-Philippe to carry on from our daily discussions we had started at Caltech.

Now that I have been hired as a faculty member at ENS, Paris, I wish to reiterate my thanks to all the people aforementioned for providing guidance and allowing me to become a research scientist and an academic supervisor. I sincerely hope to be able to do the same for the students I will supervise, keeping their advice in my mind. I am looking forward to more scientific discussions and also, simply, to spend some nice enjoyable time with all of them, mentors and friends.

Finally, this journey through academia would not have been possible without the incommensurable support from my parents; my sister and brother; and my partner, Elsa.

—Romain Jolivet, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

Whitney Behr will receive the 2016 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in Tectonophysics.



Whitney Behr has distinguished herself as a leading researcher in the field of lithospheric deformation. She is a great scientist with a keen ability to identify important problems and stands out in the breadth of her research, spanning investigations of the kinematics and mechanics of deformation in the continental lithosphere, experimental rock mechanics, and Quaternary geomorphology to constrain geologic fault slip rates. She possesses a unique combination of enthusiasm, scientific firepower, and a friendly frankness that promotes advancement in science. Her work ethic and intellect have led to novel papers on the origin of the lithosphere/asthenosphere boundary, the rheological structure of the lithospheric crust and mantle, and the role of grain size evolution on the rheological behavior of shear zones. Her research provides an excellent example of a 21st century approach to geology and geophysics; she uses a wide range of new techniques in both the field and the lab, constraining deformation processes at a broad range of spatial scales to investigate important problems related to the state of stress and deformation processes as a function of depth. Whitney’s combination of a strong background in structural geology with her excellent insights into how to apply state-of-the art analytical techniques has also led to important integrative papers on the strength and viscosity of the continental crust and lithosphere. Her scientific breadth is impressive for a scientist at her career stage. This attribute is exemplified by her contributions to our understanding of slip rates along the Southern San Andreas Fault. We all look forward to seeing the science Whitney takes on over the next 10 years. She is strongly deserving of the Morgan Award after such a fantastic start to her career.

—Greg Hirth, Brown University, Providence, R.I.


Sincerest thanks to Greg Hirth for nominating me for the Jason Morgan Award and to my additional letter writers. I am very honored to be receiving this recognition from AGU.

I owe this award to the wonderful foundation in geoscience I received as an undergraduate at Pasadena City College and Cal State Northridge, and as a Ph.D. student at University of Southern California (USC). I am especially grateful for the mentorship I received from my Ph.D. Advisor, John Platt, and my committee members Thorsten Becker, Greg Davis, Ken Hudnut, and Tom Hanks.

After graduating from USC, I spent one of the most productive years of my career as a postdoc at Brown University, where I benefited immensely from interacting with many people, but especially Greg Hirth and his research group, Terry Tullis, and Karen Fischer.

Since arriving at University of Texas at Austin in 2012, I’ve been very fortunate to connect with some exceptional faculty, postdocs, and students. I’d especially like to thank Mark Cloos for his mentorship, and for sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of a range of geoscience topics, Mark Helper for his collaborative spirit and for lending me and my students his exceptional skills in field geology, and Doug Smith for his petrological prowess and shared interest in all things microscopic.

Last but not least, I would have gotten nowhere without the support of my entire family, including my parents, my siblings, my partner Melissa, and our son Teddy.

Thank you again to AGU for this honor.

—Whitney Behr, University of Texas at Austin, Austin

Lijun Liu will receive the 2015 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in tectonophysics.



It’s with great pleasure I received the news that Lijun Liu is the recipient of the 2015 Jason Morgan Early Career Award, which recognizes the impact that his work has already made toward understanding the dynamical processes within the deep Earth. In his career thus far, he has produced an impressive array of scientific contributions based upon his holistic approach of integrating diverse suites of geological and geophysical observations with quite advanced numerical methods that model the dynamics of the deep Earth. The successes of using that approach are not easily achieved. Where typical models of the day might be simplified in some way, perhaps generic, Cartesian, or instantaneous, or might avoid the many challenges of Earth’s complicated rheology, Lijun has pushed forward to generate geographically referenced, three-dimensional spherical dynamic models that evolve through tens of millions of years and yield appropriate deformations from the scales of mineral grains to tectonic plates. Yet the real pioneering aspect of this effort is that the models can evolve either forward from a time in history or backward from the present day.

Lijun is working at the leading edge of his discipline and, more importantly, using geodynamic models as a framework for data assimilation. This type of synthesis can help transform tectonophysics into a more integrative science with more predictive capability. It takes both talent and assiduousness, which reflect the qualities that make Lijun deserving of this award. But he’s also the kind of scientist you want to see recognized because of his other virtues such as integrity, objectiveness, and his generosity to those he works with. He inspires those around him with his tremendous work ethic and dedication, which I can assure you is driven by his natural curiosity and determination to figure out how Earth works.

—Dave Stegman, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.


Thanks, Dave, for the kind citation. It is a great honor to receive this prestigious award. Among the many young talents within the broad field of tectonophysics, I feel very fortunate to be recognized by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) during the early stage of my career. With modern Earth science emphasizing multidisciplinary research and community effort more than ever before, it becomes challenging for individuals to build independent career records. As a result, recognitions from the AGU Honors Program are important for encouraging young researchers to carry on.

Upon receiving this award, I owe many thanks to my former mentors and colleagues. I am indebted to my Ph.D. adviser, Michael Gurnis, and former group members, Eh Tan and Eunseo Choi, from whom I learned a great amount on geodynamic modeling with supercomputers. I am deeply grateful to my postdoc adviser, Dave Stegman, who helped me with not only building realistic subduction models but also the many things that allow me to smoothly transition into a faculty member. I also want to thank colleagues and friends Dietmar Müller, Don Helmberger, Peter Olson, Jason Saleeby, and Shijie Zhong for their strong support and encouragement throughout the years.

My thanks also go to the University of Illinois, where I spent the past 3 years. I sincerely appreciate warmhearted colleagues Stephen Marshak, Xiaodong Song, Bruce Fouke, Tom Johnson, and many other people in the Department of Geology for their unreserved support during the establishment of my geodynamics group. I have enjoyed and benefited from the numerous lovely scientific discussions with students and faculty during our weekly donuts and dynamics seminar.

Finally, I want to thank my families for their persistent support, without which I couldn’t have walked this long.

—Lijun Liu, Department of Geology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana

Patrick Fulton received the 2014 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early career contributions in tectonophysics.



The American Geophysical Union Tectonophysics section is pleased to present the 2014 Jason Morgan Early Career Award to Patrick Fulton for his fundamental contributions in the fields of fault mechanics and earthquake energetics. In the time since his Ph.D., Patrick has amassed an exceptional research record and has established himself internationally as a leader in measuring the frictional dynamics of faults. He has also emerged as a leader and statesman for a cohort of early career scientists and as an effective and accomplished mentor.

Patrick’s success can be traced in large part to his extraordinarily broad and deep expertise in numerical modeling, field data collection, and analysis of laboratory data. In his Ph.D. research focused on the San Andreas heat flow paradox, Patrick conducted a series of numerical modeling experiments to clarify arguments for a low friction fault and to rigorously investigate the role of fluid overpressures in fault weakening. As a postdoc with Rob Harris at Oregon State University and then with Peter Flemings at the University of Texas, Patrick brought his considerable quantitative skills to analyses of laboratory friction experiments, vitrinite reflectance data as indicators of frictional heating, gas hydrate dynamics, and geodetic and marine heat flow data. Most recently, as a research scientist at University of California, Santa Cruz, Patrick has taken the lead in the temperature observatory for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Japan Trench rapid response drilling (JFAST) project. The results have, for the first time, resolved the coseismic friction on a major fault and show that it is much lower than previously thought.

As is evidenced in all of his work, Patrick attacks complicated numerical problems efficiently and with keen foresight and identifies connections between his results and the broader geological context that have not been obvious to others. We look forward to his continued success at solving major geophysical problems with his unique and thoroughly modern toolkit.

—Demian Saffer, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; Emily Brodsky, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.


I am deeply honored to receive this award. The kind citation reminds me of how grateful I am to have so many great mentors. I would particularly like to thank and acknowledge Demian Saffer, Rob Harris, Peter Flemings, and Emily Brodsky. Their encouragement and support have given me a great freedom to develop into the scientist that I am today; I continue to look up to them in many ways.

I would also like to thank Fred Chester and Jim Mori, the cochiefs of the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project. They succeeded in the tremendously difficult job of leading a tremendously difficult project, and I am thankful for their belief in our ability to do impossible things and the encouragement that they, and the IODP program in general, have provided to so many early career scientists such as myself.

Likewise, I would also like to thank my other colleagues and collaborators, including the rest of the JFAST team both offshore and on and the others with whom I have had great joy working with over the years and have learned from considerably.

I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a number of great students. Their hard work and inquisitiveness keep me on my feet and continually remind me of how wonderful a field of science it is that we explore.

Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends who have made this life of science and exploration fulfilling even when times are hard and stressful. This award further stokes my desire to do good work. It also inspires me to continue to help other upcoming scientists and students feel as welcome and encouraged within this community as I do.

Thank you very much.

—Patrick Fulton, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Ikuko Wada received the 2013 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in tectonophysics.



The AGU Tectonophysics section is pleased to present the fifth Jason Morgan Early Career Award to Ikuko Wada for her research using numerical modeling coupled with geochemical and geophysical observations to understand processes associated with subduction. It is often stated that there is need for interdisciplinary approaches to advance the state of knowledge in subduction zone structure, dynamics, and island arc geochemistry, and Ikuko’s research exemplifies how interdisciplinary research advances understanding.

In her Ph.D. work, Ikuko constrained the stress state and thermal regime for intermediate-depth earthquakes and provided an explanation for the formation of the now well-established “cold corner” in the forearc mantle wedge. As a postdoctoral researcher, Ikuko developed new research directions, including investigating how the spatial distribution of water in the incoming slab influences the pattern of slab dehydration during subduction; studying the influence of grain size evolution on mantle flow, flux melting, and fluid transport in the mantle wedge at subduction zones; and investigating the dynamics of the slab impacted by phase transformations in the transition zone.

At this early stage of her career she has already assembled a strong publication record in terms of both quantity and quality. In addition to her research abilities, Ikuko is an exceptional communicator, a fact attested to by the great number of invited and keynote talks that she has given at conferences and workshops over the last few years. While a postdoc, Ikuko has taken on mentoring roles with younger scientists, helping with the minutiae of coding details or reading and commenting on drafts of their papers. By embracing interdisciplinary research, communicating across disciplines, and sharing her time and knowledge mentoring others, Ikuko exemplifies AGU’s vision of promoting discovery in Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity.

—SCOTT D. KING, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.


I am extremely honored to receive this award and grateful to the Tectonophysics section of AGU for its recognition of my efforts and accomplishments. My interest in subduction zone geodynamics sprang from an essay project during my undergraduate studies, and I feel fortunate to have found a field that I am truly excited about and am proud that I have been able to contribute to this important field in geoscience ever since.

For my accomplishments, I owe much gratitude to a number of professors, scientists, and staff members at the University of Victoria and the Pacific Geoscience Centre (PGC), British Columbia, Canada, for their guidance and support during my undergraduate and graduate studies. In particular, I am indebted to my Ph.D. advisor, Kelin Wang, at PGC for his invaluable teaching and boundless inspiration and to Jiangheng He at PGC for his assistance with numerical modeling codes. I am also grateful to my postdoctoral advisors, Mark Behn and Alison Shaw at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scott King at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, for a number of exciting and fruitful discussions that greatly enriched my postdoctoral research.

I am very fortunate to have so many great mentors and enthusiastic and experienced colleagues around the world. In particular, I am grateful to Peter van Kenken at the University of Michigan for sharing his passion for Earth science and insights on subduction zone geodynamics and to my colleagues at Tohoku University for their support toward my research activities and our collaborative work. The support from my family and friends has also been invaluable to my journey as a scientist.

—IKUKO WADA, International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

Fabio Capitanio received the 2012 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in tectonophysics.



Fabio Capitanio is one of the brightest and most dedicated young scientists. His work combines geology, plate reconstruction, numerical models, and basic physics. He has developed a powerful description of the processes underlying plate tectonic motions that greatly enhances our view of the way Earth works. His recent work models convergent margins at high resolution in three dimensions, including deforming overriding plates, buoyancy variations in the slab, melt generation, and the effect of surface processes. These models are an order of magnitude more advanced than their immediate predecessors, are well resolved, and provoke new understanding of the distribution and evolution of forces in subduction systems. Fabio’s work draws out the simplicity inherent in a complicated system.

Fabio is naturally creative and expressive—he had a background in art and music before beginning his research career; this gives him the capacity to reach out and communicate his scientific ideas in a direct and easily understood fashion. His style is well received by students; Fabio is a popular and effective teacher in the undergraduate classes at Monash University.

He is an excellent and deserving choice for the Jason Morgan Early Career Award this year.

—LOUIS MORESI, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia


I am deeply grateful for the Jason Morgan Early Career Award. It is an honor to be considered for this prize and a privilege to be the 2012 recipient. Access to unprecedented technologies and knowledge makes this a thrilling time to be a scientist. At the same time, it has made it increasingly difficult for an early-career researcher to find a way to make an individual and original contribution. The support of the community becomes instrumental for early-career scientists, and awards such as this one are a clear expression of encouragement from distinguished members of our community.

My research interests lie at the intersection between geology and geodynamics. Most of my time was spent figuring out where exactly I was standing. As this award would suggest, it has been a worthwhile effort. Indeed, it has been a team effort, and I have to thank all the colleagues who contributed in different capacities to the shaping of my own research.

A special mention goes to my mentors and friends Claudio Faccenna, Saskia Goes, and Louis Moresi, whose advice and directions were invaluable for the development of my career. I am indebted also to many people for the fun they have infused in our time spent together because this is what makes work interesting and life enjoyable. In particular, guys like Gabriele Morra, Dave Stegman, and Manuele Faccenda have made the journey so far a pleasant one. Last, but not least, I thank the people who supported my nomination: Shijie Zhong, Thorsten Becker, and Dietmar Müller. Receiving the support of such great colleagues is already rewarding.

The Jason Morgan Early Career Award acknowledges previous work but raises the bar for the future. Luckily, the continuing support of these excellent people will make this new challenge achievable.

—FABIO A. CAPITANIO, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

Derek Keir received the 2011 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in tectonophysics.



The AGU Tectonophysics section is pleased to present the third Jason Morgan Early Career Award to Derek Keir for discoveries resulting from his innovative and tireless efforts to elucidate the role of magma intrusion in large-scale strain accommodation prior to and during continental rupture, a stage of the Wilson Cycle that is very poorly understood. Keir is a consummate tectonophysicist; he uses state-of-the-art seismic, structural, and other field geophysical techniques to study in detail a first-order tectonics problem: that of how continents break up as the Wilson Cycle is initiated. To address this problem, one has to go to the only place on Earth where the process is ongoing at this moment: northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. These are physically and logistically difficult places in which to do fieldwork; the work of many collaborators must be coordinated to collect the necessary high-quality data, and, equally important, one must have excellent “people skills” to gain access to critical areas and to keep a project moving along, always with the target in mind. After the very large amounts of data are collected at great effort, the motivation must be maintained to ensure that the data are sifted and condensed into a coherent whole and published where large numbers of scientists of many disciplines will see them. Keir’s astounding productivity in some of the world’s best scientific journals in his fledgling scientific career attests to his possession of such motivation and the caliber of his writing skills. The equally impressive number of citations of these papers attests to his choice of important topics, the rigor of his analyses, and the quality of the results. His quiet, modest demeanor belies his strong commitment to teaching and outreach, and his career to date exemplifies AGU’s aim to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.

—Harry W. Green, University of California, Riverside


I am sincerely grateful to the Tectonophysics section of AGU for considering me as a recipient of this prestigious award. These days, early-career scientists face an ever increasing challenge navigating their way toward independent careers. The international science community is large and complex, and the standards are high. It is therefore very important for the community to continue supporting young scientists through opportunities in funding and resources, sound mentoring, and encouragement to contribute back to the community. I have been fortunate to have had all these ingredients in my career to date.

First, I am grateful to my Ph.D. advisor, Cindy Ebinger. Her enthusiasm, generosity, and unwavering determination in Earth science are truly inspirational. I also thank my closest established colleagues in Europe and Ethiopia: Graham Stuart, Mike Kendall, Tim Wright, Sylvie Leroy, and Atalay Ayele, who continue to provide valuable mentoring and scientific collaboration. I have built a fledging career on a core of seismic experiments in Ethiopia and Yemen. I am therefore indebted to Alex Brisbourne and colleagues at SEIS-UK for the fabulous opportunities facilitated, as well as to collaborators at Addis Ababa University and the Yemen Seismological Observatory Center. In the United States the platforms provided to young scientists by AGU and the Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins (GeoPRISMS) program to contribute to, and integrate with, the broader community have also been exceptionally important.

Young scientists are the future, and I have already worked with and learned from a suite of young and exceptionally talented seismologists, geodesists, geochemists, and volcanologists. I look forward to a future of collaborative, multidisciplinary, high­quality, fun, and ethical science from my new base at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

—Derek Keir, Centre, Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

John W. Hernlund received the 2010 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, held 13–17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is “for significant early-career contributions to tectonophysics.”



The Tectonophysics section is delighted to present the second Jason Morgan Early Career Award to John Hernlund for his seminal contributions to mantle dynamics and the promise of much more to come. Hernlund, a geodynamicist, has a remarkable ability for cross-disciplinary thinking that links geodynamics, seismology, and mineral and rock physics—the essence of tectonophysics, which incorporates all of these disciplines. Shortly after discovery of the postperovskite phase of (Mg,Fe)SiO3 in 2004, Hernlund produced a model inNature proposing a double crossing of the phase boundary between the perovskite and postperovskite phases as an explanation of several perplexing aspects of the lowermost layer of Earth’s mantle, the so-called D” layer. Such a model, coupled with detailed understanding of this phase change and the effect of chemical composition on it, especially the effects of aluminum (Al) and the spin states of iron (Fe), is fueling and will continue to fuel discussion and models about early Earth, the temperature of the core, the heat flow across the core-mantle boundary, the significance of discontinuous zones of ultralow seismic velocities (ultralow-velocity zones, or ULVZs), and more. One such advance already accomplished by Hernlund and coworkers is a model, also published in Nature, postulating a dense basal magma ocean that they envision developed in very early times, cumulates from which may explain the ULVZs. The seeds of much of this work can be seen in Hernlund’s earlier work at the top of the mantle on melting instabilities induced by lithospheric extension when he was still a student at University of California, Los Angeles with Paul Tackley. His ideas have now flowered with these applications to the bottom of the mantle in the early years of his independent career

—Harry W. Green, University of California, Riverside


I am honored to receive this award, and I am happy that I can still be considered an “early-career” scientist. For me, this award represents an encouraging vote of confidence from colleagues whom I respect and admire and sets a high standard of expectations for my future. It is also a pleasure to see the breadth of disciplines that are already recognized by this award. It sets a precedent that reflects the broad spectrum of science that finds shelter under the umbrella of tectonophysics.

The award description states that it is granted “for significant early career contributions to tectonophysics.” However, the groundwork for everything I have done was laid long ago by the efforts of my senior colleagues, and I am grateful for their hard work in preparing the way for the next generation of scientists. I also have countless colleagues and mentors (too many to list in this small space) who have shaped my development as a scientist and played vital roles in much of my research. My work is also closely tied to that of my colleagues in many different disciplines. Without the discovery of postperovskite, or the observation of multiple seismic discontinuities in the deepest mantle, there would be no postperovskite double crossing. If there were no detections of ULVZs, or experimental evidence of dense melting in the lowermost mantle, there would be no basal magma ocean. Therefore, this award honors the achievements of researchers who are working in a broad variety of fields and highlights the remarkable synergy by which we are able to address these challenging scientific problems together as a community. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

—John W. Hernlund, University of California, Berkeley

Kaj M. Johnson received the 2009 Early Career Tectonophysics Award at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early career contributions to tectonophysics.



The AGU Tectonophysics section has picked a perfect candidate in Kaj Johnson for its first Early Career Award. Those of us who have worked with Kaj have long been amazed by his breadth of scientific interest, the depth of his understanding of geodynamic research problems, his technical creativity in finding innovative ways to address them, and his generosity in sharing ideas and successes with students, postdocs, and scientific collaborators. It’s hard to think of anyone better suited to receive this award.

In his relatively short research career—as a grad student at Stanford, a postdoc at Berkeley, and now a faculty member at Indiana University—Kaj has addressed a remarkable array of geodynamic problems. He has examined regional tectonic processes associated with the Philippine-Eurasia collision in Taiwan and postseismic deformation in the aftermath of the Parkfield, Denali, and Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes; explored structural processes associated with fault-related folding; developed new methods of probabilistic inversion of geodetic data; and studied the frictional properties of fault zones from postearthquake transients. His more recent work has extended these horizons to work on regional geodynamic models of the India-Eurasia collision zone in Tibet; magmatic deformation and tectonomagmatic interaction in the Long Valley Caldera; and intraplate deformation and seismicity in the U.S. midcontinent. Kaj has a seemingly endless range of interests and a bottomless well of collaborative research energy.

What is unusual about Kaj’s work is the blend of geodynamic theory and rigorous mathematical and computational methods that are grounded in observational structural geology, seismology, and geodesy. Kaj has remarkable intuition about critical geological problems and thoughtful and creative ways of addressing them through geodynamic modeling. All of us who have worked with Kaj believe he is the outstanding young tectonophysicist in the country and is greatly deserving of this recognition from AGU.

—Michael Hamburger, Indiana University, Bloomington


Thank you, Michael, for the very kind citation. It is a great honor to receive the first Early Career Tectonophysics Award. I feel fortunate to have had a group of very good teachers and mentors throughout my graduate education and my early career.

My father, Arvid Johnson, taught me how to do science: how to make observations, how to formulate analogies for the processes underlying the observations, and how to carry out theoretical analyses of these analogies. His work and scientific approach inspired me to work on the underlying physical processes involved in active deformation.

I was then lucky to get to work with my Ph.D. advisor, Paul Segall, at Stanford. I could not have had a better Ph.D. advisor, and Paul continues to provide the most valuable advice I receive. Roland Bürgmann at Berkeley was a wonderful postdoc advisor and a pleasure to work with. I can only hope that a little bit of Roland’s unwavering enthusiasm for science has rubbed off on me.

My colleagues at Indiana University have provided me with an ideal setting to get my feet on the ground and establish a career. I am especially grateful to my geophysics mentors at Indiana, Michael Hamburger and Gary Pavlis.

I continue to be encouraged by the Earth science community’s intentional efforts to support and include early-career scientists in the scientific community in a variety of ways, including awards such as this one.

—Kaj M. Johnson, Indiana University, Bloomington

Honors Contacts

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Program Manager, Fellows

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