UT Austin’s Demian Saffer Named AGU Fellow

Portrait of Demian Saffer
Demian Saffer. Credit: UTIG

Demian Saffer, the director of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), has been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The distinction recognizes exceptional scientific contribution and eminence in the field of Earth sciences.

Being named a fellow is AGU’s highest honor. Only a tiny fraction (0.1%) of its 40,000 members achieve this status.

According to AGU, Saffer was selected for “leadership in unifying the hydrological, mechanical and geological study of earthquakes and subduction dynamics.” Saffer, and this year’s other fellows, will be formally recognized at AGU’s Fall meeting, the world’s largest gathering of Earth scientists.

Saffer is also a professor in The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. His research focuses on active plate tectonics, with Saffer leading major scientific explorations of subduction zones, the places where the world’s most powerful earthquakes and tsunamis happen.

Jackson School faculty and researchers that have previously been named AGU Fellows include Thorsten Becker, David Mohrig, Stephen Grand and Bridget Scanlon. Saffer said that this group demonstrates how research endeavors at the Jackson School really are at the highest tier.

Photo of Demian wearing a hard hat and standing over an instrument on the deck of a ship and talking to other scientists, also in hard hats.
Saffer aboard the JOIDES Resolution during IODP Expedition 375 in New Zealand, which he co-led with UTIG research scientist Laura Wallace. Credit: IODP JRSO

“It’s a clear recognition of the Jackson School and institute’s stature in the global research community,” he said. “For me personally, it’s humbling to be recognized by my peers and colleagues in the community for my research group’s contributions in advancing the science.”

Saffer is known for his work on the mechanics of tectonic faults. He studies the role of deep fluids in controlling earthquakes and the transport of heat and chemical elements through the Earth’s crust. Saffer has led several major scientific ocean drilling projects, including the deepest exploration of a subduction zone in Japan, and has aided in the installation of sensor networks that monitor fault slip and earthquake processes far offshore.

As UTIG director, Saffer leads more than 100 research scientists and graduate students who conduct geophysical research that contributes to scientists’ understanding of earthquakes, plate tectonics, energy resources, ocean currents, climate change and even the search for the ingredients for life on other planets. As professor he leads a research group focused on understanding the geomechanics of Earth’s crust, with a particular focus on unraveling the mysteries of subduction zone earthquakes.

Jackson School Dean Claudia Mora said that Saffer being named an AGU Fellow demonstrates the school’s leadership in advancing the geosciences.

“AGU Fellowship is one of the highest honors you can receive as a geoscientist,” Mora said. “AGU Fellows are people at the top of their game who are having a major impact on the science, the community and the school. Demian is an accomplished researcher and we greatly value his leadership of UTIG.”

For more information, contact: Anton Caputo, Jackson School of Geosciences, 210-602-2085;Constantino Panagopulos, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, 512-574-7376.