Thorne Lay

Profile | Research | Publications | Teaching

Office: Earth & Marine Sci. C382
Telephone: (831) 459-3164
Fax: (831) 459-3074

Thorne Lay's primary research interests involve analysis of seismic waves to interrogate the deep structure of the Earth's interior and to study the physics of earthquake faulting. In the realm of deep Earth structure, the focus is on imaging structures associated with internal dynamics of the mantle, particularly the core-mantle boundary region and the vicinity of subducting lithosphere. Studies of the core-mantle boundary have revealed a complex seismic structure believed to involve a thermal and chemical boundary layer at this, the largest internal compositional contrast within the planet. One of the major questions about subducting lithosphere that is being addressed is the depth extent to which the subducting material penetrates, which is closely linked to the debate about layered mantle versus whole mantle convection. Other Earth structure interests include the lateral variations of lithospheric structure, which are studied using body waves and surface waves, and the nature of regional waves propagating in the crust.

Earthquake-related investigations include waveform modeling of body and surface waves to determine the nature of faulting and to develop seismic models for the entire rupture process, which can then be interpreted using fracture mechanics. Areas of concentration have included investigations of faulting within subducting slabs, slip heterogeneity in the large thrust events around the Circum-Pacific region, and rapid determination of fault parameters for regional earthquakes using broadband seismic waves. Nuclear explosion sources are also being studied to provide improved means for monitoring low-threshold test ban treaties. The common trend in the overall program is the quantitative analysis of seismic waves to improve our understanding of the Earth's dynamic processes and social hazards.


California Institute of Technology, 1983, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology, 1980, M.S.
University of Rochester, 1978, B.S. with Highest Distinction

Awards and Academic Honors

USTC Distinguished Lecture Series in Earth and Space Sciences, 2015
IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lecturer, 2015
Star on the Mountain Award, City of El Paso, Texas, 2015
Fessinger-Springer Memorial Lecture,University of Texas El Paso, 2015
Honorary Professor, Xi'an Jiaotong University, 2014
Inge Lehmann Medal, American Geophysical Union, 2014
Harry Fielding Reid Medal, Seismological Society of America, 2014
Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2014
GSA Pardee Syposium Keynote Speaker, 2014
Thomas Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, 2014
Certificate of Excellence in Reviewing, Physics Earth and Planet Interiors, 2013
Alumni Achievement Award, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, University of Rochester, 2013
Gutenberg Lecturer of Seismology Section, American Geophysical Union, 2011
Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009
Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2008
Most Cited Paper 2004-2007 Award, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 2007
Contributor to issue of Phi Kappa Phi Forum issue in Natural Disasters which received 2007 APEX Awards Grand Award for Writing
Provost's Lecturer, SUNY Stony Brook, 2004
Selected for Inclusion in Highly-Cited Website of top 250 Geosciences Researchers 2003
Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies of Science 2002
AGU Editor's Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, 1998
U.S. Delegation to Seismic Screening CTBT Workshop, Beijing, China, 1997
Air Force Technical Applications Center Plaque of Appreciation, 1997
Taiwan National Research Council Visiting Senior Scholar, 1997
UCSC Natural Sciences Outstanding Professor Award, 1997
Japan Society for Promotion of Science Visiting Scholar, 1992
UCSC Student Alumni Council Favorite Professor Award, 1992
Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 1991
Macelwane Medal, American Geophysical Union, 1991
Shell Faculty Fellow, University of Michigan, 1985-1988
Sigma Xi, University of Michigan, 1986
Sloan Fellow, University of Michigan, 1985-1987
NSF Presidential Young Investigator, University of Michigan, 1985-1990
Lilly Fellow, University of Michigan, 1984-1985
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1978-1981
Gutenberg Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1978-1979
Tau Beta Pi, University of Rochester, 1978
Phi Beta Kappa, University of Rochester, 1978
Wilson Fellow, University of Rochester, 1974-1978