Meet the Team

We are the Deep Earth Seismology research group, based in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

For anyone (interested in) joining the team, please check out our Code of Conduct and guide of expectations.

Sanne Cottaar
Professor in Global Seismology

How did you become a Deep Earth Explorer?

As a child in the Netherlands, I thought being a seismologist might be boring as I thought you would mostly sit around waiting for earthquakes to happen... I went to do a degree in geology as I liked sciences, but wanted to do something applied and observational. The course required many weeks of camping each year, which was a big plus. In my second year I learnt that Earthquakes are happing all the time and got introduced to all the interesting things that could be observed with earthquake waves – this inspired me to start doing research in seismology!

What are you working on right now?

In my research I am looking at the source of the volcanism that created the Galapagos Islands 3000 km down inside the Earth! I also supervise a number of research students, teach courses, communicate our science, and write research proposals to do new scientific projects in the future.

What's the favourite thing about what you do?

The Earth only gives us limited clues as to what is stored and happening inside it. Sometimes it feels like the Earth has set up a treasure hunt for us! I like that my work feels like piecing together the different parts to the puzzle, and I get to do so with a great team.

Best fact about our planet?

The inner core is growing out of the outer core adding millions of kilograms of solid iron a second, which sounds shocking, but this only amounts to about a millimetre of growth in size each year.

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Lisanne Jagt
Postdoctoral Researcher (2022-)

How did you become a Deep Earth Explorer?

It started with a fascination with dinosaurs and evolved into a fascination with rocks and geology thanks to my secondary school geography teacher. At university I discovered that, while geology fieldwork is a fun experience, I wasn’t great at it, and that studying geophysics lets you combine maths/physics with geology.

 

What are you working on now?

Imaging small-scale ultra low velocity zones on the core-mantle boundary, using compressional waves that travel along this boundary. We hope to say something about the nature of these structures; in particular whether they are partially molten or require a different chemical composition.

 

What is the favourite thing about what you do?

The deep Earth is a bit of a mystery, since it’s not directly observable, and we are all working towards solving little bits of the puzzle. Sharing these bits at conferences is one of the best parts.

 

Best fact about our planet?

After a big earthquake, the entire Earth behaves as a musical instrument: it ‘rings like a bell’, and some of these ‘tones’ can still be ‘heard’ weeks after the earthquake!

Tom Merry
Postdoctoral Researcher (2024-)
How did you become a Deep Earth Explorer?
 
I fell in love with Geology after taking it as an option in my first year of university and I kept wanting to learn more about how the Earth beneath our feet works. I did a PhD in seismology to further understand how deep Earth processes relate to plate tectonics and earthquakes that affect people’s everyday lives, and I've just kept on exploring.
 
What are you working on now?
 
Studying properties of the mantle beneath the North Atlantic using ocean-bottom seismometers. We’re hoping to find where the mantle plume feeding the volcanism of Iceland is — or isn’t! — in the deep mantle, and how it impacts flow patterns in the upper mantle.
 
What is the favourite thing about what you do?
 
I’ve always been obsessed with maps, and being able to make new maps of the Earth showing features we haven’t seen before is very fun.
 
Best fact about our planet?
 
It’s taken for granted by geophysicists, but the fact that the deep mantle is solid, yet flows and has convection currents like a fluid (on a millions-of-years timescale!), is a real mindblower when you first find it out. Temperatures, pressures, and deep time far beyond human experience…
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George Pindar
PhD researcher (2021-)

How did you become a Deep Earth Explorer?
Becoming a palaeontologist had always been my dream career since I was probably about five years old, while fossil hunting on Yorkshire’s Jurassic coast. After starting an undergraduate degree in Geology at ICL though I quickly realised that I was sorely missing the lack of maths and physics in the degree, which is how I stumbled upon Geophysics!

What are you working on now?
I am currently investigating the short-scale topography along the base of the Mantle Transition Zone (MTZ) by analysing travel-time, slowness, and back azimuth deviations in high-frequency PKPPKP waves, which travel through the outer core and reflect along the MTZ. I like to tell people that I’m looking at mountain ranges deep within the Earth.

What is the favourite thing about what you do?
Simply the opportunity to explore the hidden depths of our planet, which is simultaneously so fundamental to everything we know whilst also remaining so mysterious to us. Seismology provides a unique window into Earth’s interior structure, and into the dynamics that are taking place many hundreds / thousands of kilometres beneath our feet.

Best fact about our planet?
The Earth's inner core is hotter than the surface of the sun! The extreme heat drives the dynamic processes that shape the Earth's interior, and even influence geological phenomena on the surface too.

James Atkins
PhD (2023-)

Previous group members

Jennifer Jenkins
PhD (2013-2017), Postdoctoral Researcher (2019-2021)

Jennifer Jenkins is now faculty at the University of Durham. 

Alistair Boyce
Postdoctoral Researcher (2018-2021)

Alistair Boyce is now a CNRS postdoctoral scholar in Lyon. 

Florian Millet
Postdoctoral Researcher (2020-2022)

Florian Millet is now a secondary school teacher in France. 

Zhi Li
PhD (2017-2021)

Zhi Li is now a postdoctoral researcher at Peking University

Stephen Pugh
PhD (2018-2022)

Stephen Pugh now works for EDF. 

Stuart Russell
PhD (2019-2023)

Now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Muenster

Jessica Bartlet
Public Engagement Coordinator (2019-2020)

Jessica Bartlet now works for Standigm.