Seismology / Geophysics

Associate Professor

Departamento de Geociencias

Facultad de Ciencias

Universidad Nacional de Colombia - Sede Bogotá

Address : Cra 30 # 45 - 03
Bogotá, Colombia

Ed. Manuel Ancizar Of. 302
Phone: (+57-1) 316 - 5000 Ext. 16530

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I am Associate Professor at the Departamento de Geociencias, Facultad de Ciencias in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I am also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My research focuses on understanding the diversity of earthquakes and the associated ground motions expected on the surface of the Earth.

I received my PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego working with Peter Shearer and Frank Vernon on scaling properties of earthquakes using state-of-the-art signal processing on some of the largest datasets at the time. I was a Thompson Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University working on seismic tomography and ground motion predictions using the ambient seismic field. Prior to my appointment at Universidad Nacional, I was a faculty member at MIT and before that faculty and head of the Geosciences program at Universidad de los Andes. I have also been a Visiting profesor at IPGP in 2012, and at MIT (2017-2018). 

My main interest is to use seismic records to understand the earthquake source, the interior of the Earth and how both affect the ground motions that we feel on the Earth's surface. Seismological observations are affected by the internal structure of the Earth, for example amplification of seismic waves in sedimentary basins. The nature of the earthquake source has also a significant impact on ground motions, and I am interested in a better understanding of earthquake ruptures, i.e., are large earthquakes different from the more common small ones?

Current research projects can be found here.

Recent Publications 


At the convergent boundary between the southern Caribbean and northwest South America the Caribbean plate dips, or subducts, beneath South America at angles less than 30  for up to ∼300 km inland before steepening. Such low-angle subduction systems are unique because they produce mountains hundreds of kilometers inland. Using new data collected by the Caribbean-Mérida Andes seismic array, which continuously recorded earthquakes for two years, we imaged the Caribbean plate to depths of 660 km and identified at least three segments, including a segment detached from the surface. The timing of the detachment ∼5–15 million years ago aligns with the uplift of the M rida Andes of Venezuela ∼500 km inland. Both the attached and detached segments interacted with the underside of South America, compressing parts of it, and causing uplift of the Mérida Andes. The northern limit of subduction lies south of the Oca-Ancón fault of northern Colombia and Venezuela. The southern expanse of subduction includes the Bucaramanga earthquake cluster, but the boundary lies south of our study area. By understanding how the actively subducting plate, the Caribbean, deforms the upper plate, South America, we can better assess seismic risk and understand similar systems that are no longer active.

Cornthwaite, J., M. Bezada, W. Mao, M. Schmitz, G.A. Prieto, V. Dionicio, F. Niu, A. Levander (2021). Caribbean slab segmentation beneath northwest South America revealed by 3-D finite frequency teleseismic P-wave tomography.  G3 22 (4). e2020GC009431


In response to a pandemic causing the cancellation of numerous professional development programs for emerging seismologists, we successfully planned, promoted, and executed an 11 week online school for advanced graduate students worldwide during the summer of 2020. Remote Online Sessions for Emerging Seismologists included 11 distinct lessons focused on different topics in seismology. We highlight the course content, structure, technical requirements, and participation statistics. We additionally provide a series of “lessons learned” for those in the community wishing to establish similar programs.

Dannemann Dugick, F. K., van der Lee, S., Prieto, G. A., Dybing, S. N., Toney, L., & Cole, H. M. (2021). ROSES: Remote Online Sessions for Emerging Seismologists. Seism. Res. Lett., 92(4), 2657-2667.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

2007 Ph.D. (Earth Sciences) UC San Diego 
2004 M. Sc. (Earth Sciences) UC San Diego 
2002 B.S. (Geology) Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Professional Experience 
2017 - Present
  Associate Professor - Universidad Nacional de Colombia

2016 - 2017      Associate Professor - Universidad del Rosario

2013 - 2016      Assistant Professor - MIT
2009 - 2013      Assistant Professor - Universidad de los Andes
2007 - 2008      Thompson Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University 
2002 - 2007      Graduate Student Researcher UC San Diego

External Service 

2020 - Actual    Editor Geophysical Research Letters

2020 - 2021      AGU Canvassing Committee - Seismology

2013 - 2020      Associate Editor J. Geophysical Research (Solid Earth)

2019 - 2020      AGU Fall Meeting Program Committee - Seismology

2016 - 2017      Keiiti Aki Award Committee Member AGU Seismology Section 

2010 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award (video
2011 Editors Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, JGR-Solid Earth, AGU