Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah – Winner of AGU’s 2016 Outstanding Student Paper Award

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Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah – Winner of AGU’s 2016 Outstanding Student Paper Award

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Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah in front of her winning poster at the Moscone Center in San Francisco

Every year, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) hands out several Outstanding Student Paper Awards (OSPAs) as a way to honour young scientists at the beginning of their careers for quality research in the geophysical sciences. These awards are given to the top 3-5% of presenters in each section/focus group at the annual AGU Fall Meeting.

It was recently announced that one of the proud winners of the 2016 OSPAs is a very smiley 24-year-old from the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah. Currently in the third year of her PhD programme, it was the poster titled “Tectonic Setting of the Pamir Platueau – Insights from InSAR, Seismic and Optical Data for the 2015 Mw 7.2 Darwas Karakoram Earthquake” that earned Ms Nanjundiah the OSPA.

From left: Mr Sagar Masuti, Ms Peng Dongju, Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah, Assistant Professor Sylvain Barbot, and Ms Sharadha Sathiakuma. (Source: Sylvain Barbot)

Explaining what the research project is about, Ms Nanjundiah said, “We are studying a Mw 7.2 earthquake that occurred in Pamir Plateau in December 2015. Nestled in East Tajikistan, the Pamir Plateau is tectonically quite complex.”

Using InSAR data, as well as teleseismic data, Ms Nanjundiah and her team are seeking to constrain the geometry of the rupture to better understand the rupture propagation and the region’s tectonics. Based on these inversions, they have already learnt that this particular earthquake had a rather complex 3-segment rupture. “Each segment varied in both its dip and strike,” she said. “In order to really understand the morphology of the region, we are also looking at high-resolution optical data of the region.”

Working under the tutelage of Assistant Professors Sylvain Barbot and Wei Shengji, Ms Nanjundiah counts herself very fortunate to have such nurturing mentors. “Being given the opportunity to work with experts in seismology and earthquake physics, I am able to look at our project from more than one perspective,” she said.

Asst. Prof Barbot himself had nothing but praise for his mentee. “I've had the pleasure of collaborating with Priya these last couple of years. She has been an enthusiastic and quick-learning student,” he said. “Her work has been at the intersection of earthquake physics, seismology, and active tectonics. Priya has been very successful at bridging the gaps between these disciplines. I join my colleagues in congratulating her for her AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award. Priya is very deserving. I have been pleased with her rapid progress so far and I am looking forward to seeing where she takes her research next.”

Echoing Asst. Prof Barbot’s sentiments, Asst. Prof Wei had this to say of his young mentee: “Priya has been working very hard to process and analyse both the seismological and geodetic data of the 2015 Mw 7.2 Tajikistan earthquake sequence, which includes the mainshock and more than 40 aftershocks. She is most deserving of this AGU award, and I believe it will encourage her to continue working on this interesting and exciting multidisciplinary topic.”

Ms Nanjundiah in front of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

Beaming brightly with pride and sheer joy, Ms Nanjundiah is both humbled and encouraged by the award. Recalling that day in San Francisco, standing in the presentation hall of the Moscone Center at the AGU Fall Meeting, she said, “It is very motivating to know that I was able to present our research work to the judges’ satisfaction. It feels great!”

Truly grateful and appreciative of the close supervision provided by her mentors, Ms Nanjundiah had a few words of thanks for them. “This project would not have been possible without the immense support, encouragement, and guidance of Asst. Prof Barbot, Asst. Prof Wei, Dr Feng Wanpeng, Dr Wang Teng, and many others who gave me their valuable inputs. I would also like to thank EOS for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference. And last but not the least, I would like to thank my family for their support and never-ending encouragement.”

Ms Priyamvada Nanjundiah, Mr Valere Lambert, Ms Deepa Mele Veedu, and Ms Sharadha Sathiakumar. (Source: Sharadha Sathiakumar) 

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