Graduate School alumnus Gavin Hayes recognized for early career achievements

Gavin Hayes, center, poses with, from left to right, Neil A. Sharkey, vice president for research at Penn State; Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School; Krishna Nadella, president, Graduate School Alumni Society; and Paul Clifford, chief executive officer, Penn State Alumni Association. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Graduate School alumnus Gavin Hayes received the Graduate School Alumni Society (GSAS) Early Career Award on March 24 at the annual GSAS Recognition Dinner. This award was established to recognize alumni who have demonstrated exceptional success in their chosen field within the first ten years after obtaining their graduate degree.

Hayes is a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center — the N-E-I-C— in Golden, Colorado. Less than 10 years after receiving his doctoral degree in geosciences at Penn State in 2007, he became widely regarded as a leading U.S. geoscience researcher and spokesperson on the development of new and effective seismic monitoring and mitigation strategies related to large, devastating earthquakes worldwide.

The impact of Hayes’ research, research-related products and modeling tools, was summarized by Harley Benz, the scientist-in-charge at the N-E-I-C:  “Gavin embodies an exciting future of innovative science and policy that will result in meaningful and long-term mitigation of earthquake and tsunami-related hazards worldwide.”

In his letter of support, Benz noted that Hayes has contributed significantly to establishing the center as the preeminent authority on large, damaging earthquakes worldwide. 

Benz wrote, “The entire world turns to the N-E-I-C in the minutes and hours following damaging earthquakes to obtain estimates of the likely impact and potential for damaging aftershocks. Much of the initial time-critical modeling on the kinematics of the earthquake — magnitude, style-of-faulting and rupture process — is done using complex algorithms developed and implemented by Hayes.”

One of the major lessons from the 2004 Sumatra earthquake was that inadequate knowledge of the magnitude and style of faulting of an earthquake can lead to an underestimation of the ensuing hazard. In order to minimize this limitation, Hayes developed and implemented a rapid magnitude and fault mechanism determination tool for the N-E-I-C. 

Benz noted that these “rapid finite fault models — that describe the complexity and extent of rupture of earthquakes — are used by tsunami warning agencies worldwide to provide improved estimates of run-up heights and potential inundation.”

Hayes has been invited by foreign governments to help establish mission-critical seismic monitoring facilities that are needed to better understand and address seismic hazards. 

Hayes received his doctoral degree in geosciences from Penn State in 2007. He received his master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Hayes has received numerous honors in recognition of his work. In 2013, he was named one of the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. 

Hayes was also a recipient of the Penn State Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes alumni 35 years of age and younger for their extraordinary professional accomplishments.

Since 2010, Hayes has been a faculty member of the Geophysics Department at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, where he teaches an introductory course, and is involved in advising several graduate student research projects.

Hayes’ career achievements are a proud reminder of the countless ways Penn State Graduate School alumni are advancing solutions to our most pressing societal problems and global challenges.

Last Updated April 02, 2018