IPRPI & RPI Logos Inverse Problems Center

Joyce McLaughlin

David Isaacson

Antionette Maniatty

Assad Oberai

Steven Roecker

Birsen Yazici

Mourad Zeghal

Research Scientists


Center Participants

Steven W. Roecker
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1981
B.S., Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1976

Career Highlights:

Roecker joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1986, and now holds the rank of professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He previously served as a postdoctoral researcher and as a principal research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Roecker is a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Seismological Society of America (SSA).

Research Areas:
Roecker is involved in the aspects of geophysics that are useful in the creation of subsurface images or in images of the active deformation of the planet to provide critical insights into how the Earth works. His research includes the areas of seismology, geodesy, and potential field methods, although the bulk of his current research effort is in the field of seismology.

Roecker recently received funding from a National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Society project to produce enhanced fault images. The San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) project involves plans to drill and instrument an inclined four-kilometer borehole across the central California fault zone. SAFOD seeks to answer fundamental questions about the physical and chemical processes controlling faulting and earthquake generation by working within a major plate-bounding fault. Roecker's imaging research aims to help determine the best drilling location and to allow scientists to understand the relationship between drilled areas and their surroundings. He and his team members are applying revolutionary techniques – time reversal and micro local techniques – to the seismic data they have recorded on the surface, in order to obtain better images on the subsurface.

For the past several years, Roecker's focus has been on the development and implementation of various seismological techniques such as travel time tomography, attenuation tomography, receiver function imaging, and characterization of anisotropy. Roecker has applied these techniques to problems in active tectonics in a variety of settings, such as central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Afghanistan, and western China), Taiwan, Indonesia, Peru, and Greece, as well as central California. His work often involves the collection of seismic and related data in these locales (i.e., field work) and a significant amount of signal processing.

Selected Publications:


Ayda S. Razi, A.,S., Roecker, Steven W.; Levin, Vadim, "The fate of the Indian lithosphere beneath western Tibet: Upper mantle elastic wave speed structure from a joint teleseismic and regional body wave tomographic study," Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interior, 251,11-23, 2016.


Schuler, J.; Greenfield, Tim; White, Robert S.; Roecker, Steven W.; Brandsdottir, Bryndis; Stock, Joann M.; Tarasewicz, Jon; Martens, Hilalry R.; Pugh, David,"Seismic imaging of the shallow crust beneath the Krafla central volcano, NE Iceland," Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 120, 10, 7156-7173, 2015.

Gilligan, A., Priestley, Keith F.; Rocker, Steven W.; Levin, Vadim; Rai, SS "The crustal structure of the western Himalayas and Tibet," Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 120 (5), 3946-3964, 2015.


Baker, B.; Roecker, S. "A full waveform tomography algorithm for teleseismic body and surface waves in 2.5 dimensions," Geophysical Journal International , 198(3), 1775-1794,2014.

Beck, S.; Rietbrock, A.; Tilmann, F.; Barrientos, S.; Meltzer, A.; Oncken, O.; Bataille, K.; Roecker, S.; Vilotte, JP; Russo, RM. "Advancing Subduction Zone Science After a Big Quake." Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union , 95(23), 193-194,2014.

Gilliagan, A.; Roecker, SW.; Priestley, KF.; Nunn, C. "Shear velocity model for the Kyrgyz Tien Shan from joint inversion of receiver function and surface wave data." Geophysical Journal International , 199(1), 480-498,2014.

Li, Z.; Ni, S.; & Roecker, S. "Interstation Pg and Sg differential traveltime tomography in the northeastern margin of the Tibetan plateau: Implications for spatial extent of crustal flow and segmentation of the Longmenshan fault zone." Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 227, 30-40, 2014.

Li, Z.; Roecker, S.; Kim, K.; Zu,Y.; Hao, T. "Moho depth variations in the Taiwan orogen from joint inversion of seismic arrival time and Bouguer gravity data." Tectonophysics , 632, 151-159,2014.

Nun, C.; Roecker, S.; Tilman, FJ; Priestley, KF; Heyburn, R.; Sandvol, EA; Ni, JF; Yongshun, JC; Zhao, W. "INDEPTH Team, Imaging the lithosphere beneath NE Tibet: teleseismic P and S body wave tomogrpahy incorporating surface wave starting models." Geophysical Journal International , 196(3), 1724-1741,2014.

Nun, C.; Roecker, SW; Priestley, KF; Liang, X.; Gilligan,A. "Joint inversion of surface waves and teleseismic body waves across the Tibetan collision zone: the fate of subducted Indian lithosphere." Geophysical Journal International , 198(3), 1526-1542,2014.


Mitchell, M. A.; White, R. S;, Roecker, S.; & Greenfield, T.; "Tomographic image of melt storage beneath Askja Volcano, Iceland using local microseismicity." Geophysical Research Letters, 40(19), 5040-5046, 2013.

Nunn, C.; Roecker, S; Tilmann, F.; Priestley,KF; Heyburn, R; Sandvol, EA; Ni, JF; Chen, YJ; Zhao, Q.; and INDEPTH Team., "Imaging the lithosphere beneath NE Tibet: teleseismic P and S body wave tomography incorporating surface wave starting models." Geophysical Journal International: ggt476, Vol. 196, Issue 3, Pg. 1724-1741, 2013.

Levin, V., Huang, G. C. D., & Roecker, S., "Crust–mantle coupling at the northern edge of the Tibetan plateau: Evidence from focal mechanisms and observations of seismic anisotropy." Tectonophysics, 584, 221-229, 2013.

Gao, Rui, Hesheng Hou, Xunyu Cai, James H. Knapp, Rizheng He, Jinkai Liu, Xiaosong Xiong, Ye Guan, Wenhui Li, Lingsen Zeng, and Steven W. Roecker. ". Fine crustal structure beneath the junction of the southwest Tian Shan and Tarim Basin, NW China." ." Lithosphere , Vo. 5. No. 4, Pg. 382-392, 2013.

Feenstra, J.P. Thurber, C.H.; Roecker,S.W.; Rawles,C.; Lord, N.; Townend, J.; Bannister, S.C.,". Microseismicity and three-dimensional tomogrpahy of the Alpine Fault, New Zealand." Seismological Research Letters, April, 2013, Vol. 84, Issue 2, pp. 379-380, 2013.


Li Zhiwei; Ni Sidao; Hao Tianyao; Xu Yi; Roecker, Steven, "Uppermost mantle structure of the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau from interstation Pn traveltime difference tomography", In: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, June 15, 2012, Vol. 335-336, pp.195-205

Zheglova, P.; McLaughlin, J. R.; Roecker, S. W.; Yoon, J. R.; Renzi, D., "Imaging quasi-vertical geological faults with earthquake data", In: Geophysical Journal International, June, 2012, Vol. 189, Issue 3, pp.1584-1596 Published by: Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society, the Deutsche Geophysikalische Gesellschaft and the European Geophysical Society, International.

Rietbrock, A.; Ryder, I.; Hayes, G.; Haberland, C.; Comte, D.; Roecker, S.; Lyon-Caen, H., "Aftershock seismicity of the 2010 Maule Mw=8.8, Chile, earthquake; correlation between co-seismic slip models and aftershock distribution?", In: Geophysical Research Letters, 2012, Vol. 39, Issue 8

Kuo-Chen, Hao; Wu, Francis T.; Roecker, Steven W., "Three-dimensional P velocity structures of the lithosphere beneath Taiwan from the analysis of TAIGER and related seismic data sets", In: Journal of Geophysical Research, 2012, Vol. 117, Issue B6 Published by: American Geophysical Union : Washington, DC, United States.

Kuo-Chen, H., F. T. Wu, D. M. Jenkins, J. Mechie, S. W. Roecker, C.-Y. Wang, and B.-S. Huang "Seismic evidence for the α-β quartz transition beneath Taiwan from Vp/Vs tomography", (2012), Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L22302, doi:10.1029/2012GL053649.

Zhang, H., S. Roecker, C. H.,"Seismic Imaging of Microblocks and Weak Zones in the Crust Beneath the Southeastern Margin of the Tibetan Plateau", Thurber and Weijun Wang Earth Sciences, Imran Ahmad Dar (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-861-8, 2012.


Huang, G-C.D, Roecker, S. W. and Levin, V. Lower-crustal earthquakes in the West Kunlun range .Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L01314, doi:10.1029/2010GL045893, (2011).


Duret, F., Shapiro, N.M., Cao, Z. Levin, V., Molnar, P. and Roecker, S. "Surface wave dispersion across Tibet: Direct evidence for radial anisotropy in the crust".Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L16306, doi:10.1029/2010GL043811, (2010).

Fang, Y., Cheney, M. and Roecker, S. "Imaging from sparse measurements", Geophysical Journal International, Vol. 180 No. 3, pp. 1289 - 1302, Published Online: 22 Jan 2010. 

Roecker, S., Mclaughlin, J., Baker, B."A Finite-Difference Algorithm for Full Waveform Teleseismic Tomography".  Geophysical Journal International, 2010, 181(2), 1017–1040.


Thurber, C. Roecker, S.W., Zhang, H., Baher, S., Ellsworth, W. "Fine-Scale structure of the San Andreas fault zone and location of the SAFOD target earthquakes", Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 31(12), 2004.

Roecker, S.W., Thurber C.and McPhee, D. Joint inversion of gravity and arrival time data from Parkfield: New constraints on structure and hypocenter locations near the SAFOD drill site, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 31, L12S04, 2004.

Vinnik, L.P., Reigber, C., Aleshin, I.M., Kosarev, G.L., Kaban, Mikhail K., Oreshin, Sergay, I., Roecker, S.W. Earth Receiver function tomography of the central Tien Shan, Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 225(1-2), pp.131-146, 2004.


C. Thurber, S. Roecker, K. Roberts, M. Gold, L. Powell, and K. Rittger, "Earthquake Locations and Three-Dimensional Fault Zone Structure Along the Creeping Section of the San Andreas Fault Near Parkfield, CA: Preparing for SAFOD," Geophysical Research Letters, 30, (3), doi: 10.1029/2002GL016004, (2003).


L.P. Vinnik, S.W. Roecker, G.L. Kosarev, S.I. Oreshin, and I. Yu. Koulakov, "Crustal Structure and Dynamics of the Tien Shan," Geophysical Research Letters, 29(22), doi: 10.1029/2002GL015531, (2002).

L.P. Vinnik, D. Peregoudov, L. Makeyeva, S. Oreshin, and S. Roecker, "Towards 3-D Fabric in the Continental Lithosphere and Asthenosphere: The Tien Shan," Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2001GL014588, (2002).

S. Oreshin, L.P. Vinnik, D. Peregoudov, and S. Roecker, "Lithosphere and Asthenosphere of the Tien Shan Imaged by S Receiver Functions," Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2001GL014441, (2002).


Masturyono, R. McCaffrey, D.A. Wark, S.W. Roecker, Fauzi, G. Ibrahim, and Sukhyar, "Distribution of Magma Beneath the Toba Caldera Complex, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Constrained by Three-Dimensional P Wave Velocities, Seismicity, and Gravity Data," Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems - G 3, 2, doi: 20010109, (2001).


A. Calvert, E. Sandvol, D. Seber, M. Barazangi, S. Roecker, T. Mourabit, F. Vidal, G. Alguacil, and N. Jabour, "Geodynamic Evolution of the Lithosphere and Upper Mantle Beneath the Alboran Region of the Western Mediterranean: Constraints from Travel Time Tomography," Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 105, 10871-10898, (2000).


I. Dricker, L. Vinnik, S. Roecker, and L. Makeyeva, "Upper-Mantle Flow in Eastern Europe," Geophysical Research Letters, 26, 1219-1222, (1999).


C.H. Lin, Y.H. Yeh, H.Y. Yen, K.C. Chen, B.S. Huang, S.W. Roecker, and J.M. Chiu, "Three-Dimensional Elastic Wave Velocity Structure of the Hualien Region of Taiwan: Evidence of Active Crustal Exhumation," Tectonics, 17, (1), 89, doi: 97TC02510, (1998).

C.H. Lin and S.W. Roecker, "Evidence for Active Crustal Subduction and Exhumation in Taiwan," in When Continents Collide: Geodynamics and Geochemistry of Ultra-high Pressure Rocks, Hacker and Liou, eds., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 323, (1998).


Y.H. Chen, S.W. Roecker, and G.L. Kosarev, "Elevation of the 410 km Discontinuity Beneath the Central Tien Shan: Evidence for a Detached Lithospheric Root," Geophysical Research Letters, 24, 1591-1594, (1997).

Contact Information:
Steven W. Roecker
1W06 Jonsson-Rowland Science Center
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street
Troy, N.Y. 12180 U.S.A.
(518) 276-6773

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