Abroad, Research

UGA Researcher Piero POLI Obtains European Funding to Study Earthquakes

A post-doctoral researcher at the UGA’s ISTerre research center has obtained a 1.4 million euro European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.
The project – MONIFAULTS – uses new methodologies to understand the complex physics of earthquakes; this information may also be used to build better models for earthquake prediction.

While scientists have a good understanding of the basic physics of rocks, plate tectonics, and wave propagation, our limited understanding of the complex physics governing faults can make earthquake prediction and risk management challenging. Over the next five years, the MONIFAULTS team will work to advance both our basic understanding of the physics of earthquakes and our ability to predict them.

An innovative method

The project uses publicly available data of real geographical features, but brings innovative analytical methods based on machine learning. Machine learning is a method for analyzing data and finding new patterns and information, in this case about the elastic properties of real faults.

The method is integrative because it tests the results from these data against other sources of information, such as changes in wave propagation in the earth, or the predicted movements of tectonic plates. The project will also establish differences between seismically active periods, and stable periods with less activity.

Grenoble’s Scientific Excellence

Like many researchers, Dr. Poli’s training and research interests have taken him all over the world. After completing his masters in Siena, he did his doctoral training here at the UGA. His doctoral dissertation earned a prize as one of 2014’s seven best.

As a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he also spent periods abroad in Chili and China to meet colleagues and further his research.

Now he has returned to the UGA as a post-doctoral researcher at the ISTerre Research Center. Poli says that his reasons for returning to Grenoble were purely scientific: “it’s one of the best labos in the world for earth sciences,” he says.

The recently released Shanghai subject rankings would seem to confirm this view; Grenoble moved from 32nd to 18th this year in earth sciences. The MONIFAULTS project has also attracted collaborators from around the world, with associated partners in the USA (Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Southern California) and Italy (Università La Sapienza).

Other ISTerre research teams have had similar success. Last year’s PACIFICA project also received European support as part of the Horizon 2020 funding instrument.
Updated on September 11, 2018