Spatial correlation of earthquake ground motions

Host Faculty: Engineering
General Subject Area: Earthquake Engineering
Project Level: PhD
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High frequency earthquake simulations

Full project title:
Creating a physics-based understanding of the spatial correlation of earthquake-induced ground motions in regions of complex geology

Imagine that you have two side-by-side bridges crossing a river. By the numbers alone, this would imply that you have some redundancy in your transport network in the event of a major earthquake. However, if the ground shaking is exceptionally strong at one bridge, it may be exceptionally strong at the other and the redundancy would be ineffective. There are many factors that can cause the ground shaking to be exceptionally strong across a spatial region related to the earthquake’s rupture, the Earth’s crust through which seismic waves propagate, and local geotechnical site conditions. As illustrated in this example, the spatial correlation of earthquake-induced ground motions is important to consider when assessing the seismic hazard and risk associated with spatially-distributed infrastructure. This includes bridges, roads, buried infrastructure and portfolios of distributed building assets.

This research will utilise a state-of-the-art physics-based ground-motion simulation technique and a unique New Zealand observed ground-motion dataset to advance the current understanding of spatial correlation of ground motions in regions of complex geology. The internationally unique dataset collected and curated by the project team features ground motions recorded at densely located arrays of stations across multiple events – enabling an unparalleled opportunity to challenge and advance beyond stationarity and isotropic assumptions. Utilising physics-based ground-motion simulations, rather than conventionally-used empirical ground-motion models, we seek to unravel salient physics of earthquake ground motions that are imperceptible without integration of spatial information. The new knowledge acquired from this research will enable more accurate and precise estimates of earthquake impacts on spatially-distributed infrastructure and portfolios of distributed building assets.

Interested candidates should email a cover letter outlining your background, interest/suitability in the project, and a CV to Dr Robin Lee

Supervisors: Dr Robin Lee (UC), Professor Brendon Bradley (UC), Professor Jack Baker (Stanford)

See my website for details about my research and other opportunities: 


Supervisor: Robin Lee

Key qualifications and skills

A relevant Bachelors or Masters degree in earthquake engineering, engineering seismology or similar would be most suitable but can be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The applicant will require strong numerical modelling and scientific programming skills. Use of high performance computing (supercomputers) will be required and training will be provided.

For non-native english speakers: Evidence of sufficient english communication is required ( The minimum requirements are either: (1) a TOEFL score greater than 90, of which writing must be greater than 20; or (2) a IELTS score of 6.5 with no section lower than 6.0

Does the project come with funding

Yes - Annual stipend of NZ$35,000 + travel

Final date for receiving applications



Earthquake engineering; Seismology; Seismic hazard; Geotechnical engineering; Civil engineering