Daniel Trugman: Assistant Professor

Trugman Headshot
Daniel Trugman

By Jasmine Gulick

The town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, is an unusual one. More than half of its residents work in the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a U.S. Department of Energy research center. Daniel Trugman’s parents are among them.

Growing up, Trugman assumed he would be a physicist, just like his parents. He ended up taking a bit of a different path, becoming a geophysicist focusing on earthquake seismology. This fall, Trugman joined the Jackson School of Geosciences as an assistant professor.

“Our scientific assumptions about earthquakes are tested every day, and often times we’re wrong, which is humbling,” he said. “It’s a constant process that helps us make better algorithms for earthquake early warning systems.”

Trugman is an observational seismologist. His research seeks to answer questions such as: How do earthquakes get started? And why do earthquakes vary from one another?

Trugman earned a doctorate in geophysics at the University of California, San Diego. Upon receiving his degree, he returned home to Los Alamos for a postdoctoral position at the lab and stayed for 21/2 years. But he felt like he was missing something.

“At a national lab, it’s a different environment from a university,” Trugman said. “There are a lot of great scientists, but there’s not as much of a focus on mentoring or teaching.”

By coincidence, Trugman interviewed with the Jackson School around the same time Claudia Mora, then the deputy leader of LANL’s chemistry division, was interviewing for the position of dean. Trugman had never worked with Mora at the lab, but he was pleasantly surprised when he saw the announcement that she had been chosen for the position.

“There were jokes at LANL that Dean Mora had stolen me from the lab and brought me with her to UT, but, in reality, there was no relation,” Trugman said. “We were getting hired at the same time from two very different committees.”

Among the diverse array of research at the Jackson School, Trugman said he is already fitting right in.

“When I came here, I felt like I was already home,” he said. “There is a lot I can learn from everyone working here, but also a lot I think I can contribute.”