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
Contact Information
Select Works
  • Roecker, S, A Maharaj, S Meyers, D Comte, Double Differencing by Demeaning: Applications to Hypocenter Location and Wavespeed Tomography, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 111 (3), 1234-1247, 2021
  • Yarce, J, A Sheehan, S Roecker, K Mochizuki, Seismic Velocity Heterogeneity of the Hikurangi Subduction Margin, New Zealand: Elevated Pore Pressures in a Region With Repeating Slow Slip Events, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, e2020JB021605, 2021
  • Calle-Gardella, D, D Comte, M Farías, S Roecker, A Rietbrock, Three-dimensional local earthquake tomography of pre-Cenozoic structures in the coastal margin of central Chile: Pichilemu fault system, Journal of Seismology 25 (2), 521-533, 2021
  • Daly, KA, GA Abers, ME Mann, S Roecker, DH Christensen, Subduction of an Oceanic Plateau Across Southcentral Alaska: High‐Resolution Seismicity, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 126 (11), e2021JB022809, 2021
  • Frost, DA. B Romanowicz, S Roecker, Upper mantle slab under Alaska: contribution to anomalous core-phase observations on south-Sandwich to Alaska paths, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 299, 106427, 2020.
  • Comte, , D., M Farias, S Roecker, R Russo, The nature of the subduction wedge in an erosive margin: Insights from the analysis of aftershocks of the 2015 Mw 8.3 Illapel earthquake beneath the Chilean Coastal Range, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 520, 50-622, 2019
  • Zhiwei Li, Sidao Ni, Steven Roecker, Feng Bao, Xing Wei, David A Yuen,Seismic Imaging of Source Region in the 1976 7.8 Tangshan Earthquake Sequence and Its Implications for the Seismogenesis of Intraplate Earthquakes, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 108, 3A, 1302-1313, 2018.
  • Roecker, S., C. Ebinger, C. Tiberi, G. Mulibo, R. Ferdinand-Wambura, K. Mtelela, G. Kianji, A. Muzuka, S. Gautier, J. Albaric, S. Peyrat; Subsurface images of the Eastern Rift, Africa, from the joint inversion of body waves, surface waves and gravity: investigating the role of fluids in early-stage continental rifting. Geophys J Int ; 210 (2): 931-950. doi: 10.1093/gji/ggx220, 2017.