Geological Sciences Professor Wins NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Samantha Hansen

Dr. Samantha Hansen, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, received an award from the National Science Foundation to study seismology in Antarctica.

Dr. Samantha Hansen, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, was awarded a $715,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to study a new approach to investigating the seismic velocity structure beneath Antarctica. These awards are NSF’s most prestigious recognition of top-performing young scientists beginning their careers.

Hansen, who joined the College’s faculty in 2010, works in the field of earthquake seismology. Her five-year NSF grant will fund an expedition to deploy a new seismic operation in Antarctica, which should enhance scientists’ understanding of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin.

Scientists consider this area of Antarctica to be a prime research location because of its unique geological features, and while previous seismic data has been collected there, Hansen’s new research is aimed at gaining more understanding of the mysterious development of these unique landscapes.

The new deployment will include installing a 15-station seismic network over an area in the northern Transantarctic Mountains that will collect data for three years. Hansen and her colleagues will then analyze the information collected to form conclusions about the formation of these unusual tectonic formations. She was previously involved with two deployment missions in Antarctica as part of a post-doctoral fellowship with Penn State University.

The CAREER grant will also provide several outreach opportunities that will pair Hansen with a high school teacher who will join the expedition and the field team that installs the seismic technology. She also hopes to develop a field course for early college students to acquaint them with field work in geology early in their education.