John Louie: Assembling 3D earthquake modeling results for Nevada cities

John Louie


Assembling 3D earthquake modeling results for Nevada cities


John Louie


Nevada Seismological Laboratory


John Louie, Ph.D. grew up in Altadena, Southern California and attended public schools there. With a B.A. from Occidental College and a Ph.D. in geophysics from Caltech, he taught for a few years at Penn State before coming to Nevada 28 years ago. As a longtime faculty advisor in Nevada's geophysics and hydrogeology bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs, Louie has worked extensively with students at all levels. Several undergraduate interns have first-authored peer-reviewed scientific papers on their research with him. About half of Louis’ Nevada master’s and doctoral program graduates earned immediate salary offers that exceeded his current academic pay.

Project overview

A group of undergraduate and graduate students is working with John to better understand earthquake hazards to Reno and Las Vegas. There are three research efforts contributing to this goal, and each effort would benefit from the involvement of an undergraduate researcher. Student interests and skills will contribute to the decision on which of the efforts the student will work on. The other students as well as John will help train the student in the needed skills and to work on the selected effort.

Effort 1: Geophysical data documentation and archiving. Data sets on geophysical measurements of rock and soil properties around the world need editing and addition of further documentation. The data sit on Google Drive as text files, and some of the work involves editing the text, documenting the edit, and perhaps editing the associated Drive-based web page. Some involves interpreting quantities such as depths to a threshold shear velocity from velocity profiles. A student with GIS skills, or who develops them for Google Earth or ARCmap, will also prepare maps to represent the data sets.

Effort 2: Computational earthquake modeling. The rock-property datasets feed into high-performance computing on Nevada's Pronghorn cluster, for earthquake wave propagation through complex 3D earth models. There are hundreds of modeling runs to make- different earthquake ruptures, different earth-model sensitivity tests, and different levels of computational effort. A student who has or wants to learn Python coding could assist the graduate students with computation setup, allocation monitoring, and processing of results. Most of these are set up in Jupyter Notebooks.

Effort 3: Earthquake scenario visualization. The earthquake computations generate maps, movies, and graphs. Each of these needs to be marked up for presentation and publication. The student will learn from the graduate students how to make the needed markups in Adobe apps (from the DataWorks Remote Desktop), and will help prepare standardized reports on each scenario's results. Students with video editing experience can prepare, narrate, and post on social media (TikTok, YouTube, Instagram) video montages of the results.