Steven W Roecker

Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Hello! I am a faculty member (Professor) of the Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Most of what I do academically falls within the realm of Geophysics. Geophysical observations and data analysis techniques are the most effective tools for determining what lies beneath the surface of the Earth. They can be applied at a spectrum of scales, from a few meters to thousands of kilometers, to address a variety of objectives from the detection of salt water invading an aquifer to fundamental questions about how the Earth works. My primary interests in both teaching and research center on the development and application of these geophysical techniques. We have ongoing research projects in a number of fields pertaining to geophysical data analysis and a substantial inventory of equipment for graduate and undergraduate use. We offer courses in field methods that include instruction in both the theory of geophysical data analysis and the application of this theory to problems in the real world. One of these courses is devoted primarily to the evaluation of groundwater problems such as the contamination of aquifers and the identification of buried channels. Others address larger scale problems such as the formation of basins in the western United States and the large mountain belts of central Asia. Among the techniques that we learn about and apply are potential field methods (gravity and magnetics), electrical methods (resistivity and electromagnetism) and seismologic methods (using both controlled sources and earthquakes) and modern surveying techniques using the Global Positioning System. Students are encouraged to become involved in the actual collection, reduction and interpretation of geophysical data. Over the past few years both undergraduate and graduate students have been involved in research projects directed at understanding collisional processes in Taiwan, the Pakistan Himalayas and the Tien Shan, in determining the motion of the Philippine Sea plate, in understanding the evolution of the Basin and Range, and the details of earthquake processes in California. They also have been involved in projects to map underground water channels in upstate New York, waste site evaluations and investigations for evidence of recent seismic activity on the borders of the Adirondacks.


B.S., Georgia Institute of Technology Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research Focus
  • Geophysics
  • Seismology
  • Inverse Problems
  • Subsurface Imaging
Select Works
  • Razi, A., S., Steven W Roecker, Vadim Levin, 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 Interiors, 251, 11-23, 2016
  • Gilligan, A., Keith F Priestley, Steven W Roecker, Vadim Levin, SS Rai, The crustal structure of the western Himalayas and Tibet, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 120 (5), 3946-3964, 2015.
  • Schuler, J. Tim Greenfield, Robert S White, Steven W Roecker, Brynd√≠s Brandsd√≥ttir, Joann M Stock, Jon Tarasewicz, Hilary R Martens, David Pugh, Seismic imaging of the shallow crust beneath the Krafla central volcano, NE Iceland, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 120, 10, 7156-7173, 2015.
  • Li, Z., Ni, S., & Roecker, S. (2014). 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.
  • Razi, A., Levin, V., Roecker, S. W., & Huang, G. C. D. (2014). Crustal and uppermost mantle structure beneath western Tibet using seismic traveltime tomography. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.
  • Gilligan, A., S. W. Roecker, and K. F. Priestly, Shear velocity model for the Kyrgyz Tien Shan from joint inversion of receiver function and surface wave data, Geophys. J. Int., 2014.
  • Nunn, Ceri, Steven W. Roecker, Keith F. Priestley, Xiaofeng Liang, Joint Inversion of Surface Waves and Teleseismic Body Waves Across the Tibetan Collision Zone: the Fate of Subducted Indian Lithosphere, Geophys. J. Int. 2014.
  • Baker, B., and S. Roecker, A full waveform tomography algorithm for teleseismic body and surface waves in 2.5 dimensions, Geophysical Journal International, 198, 3, 1775-1794, 2014.