Teachers as Scholars Workshop

Probing the Earth’s Dynamic Interior with Earthquake Waves
Feb 10, 2023, 9:00 am3:00 pm


Event Description

Earth’s solid interior harbors the long-term memory of processes that shape our planet. Seismology is the primary tool for probing this otherwise inaccessible frontier of exploration. The method of seismic tomography uses waves generated by earthquakes to image the Earth’s interior in a manner similar to CT scanning of the human body. Seismic tomography is useful for assessing natural hazards, locating explosions and characterizing plate tectonics. Routine calculations for earthquake magnitudes and early warning systems also need these models. This seminar will discuss how the iterative nature of this scientific method involves using observed data to develop quantitative models of physical properties (e.g. density). We will further consider implications for the current state of the Earth’s interior (e.g. temperature, composition) and its dynamic evolution into the future. Seminar activities will explore how tomographic models are used to determine interior structure and how these features manifest as observed waves. We will end by brainstorming ways to effectively integrate solid Earth topics in the classroom.


  • Welcome and Introductions (15 min)
  • History of Geophysics at Princeton (15 min)
  • Geophysics and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1 hr)
  • Coffee Break (30 min, 10:30 - 11:00 AM)
  • Why Seismology Rocks? (45 min)
  • Live demo of the Princeton seismometer! (15 min)
  • Lunch Break (1 hr, noon - 1 PM)
  • Interactive Group Activity on Seismic Data and Models (1 hr)
  • Group Discussion and Conclusion (1 hr)

Required Reading:

Please download and read the following selected text from Earth: Portrait of a Planet 7th Edition by Stephen Marshak before the seminar:

General Interest:

Two books of general interest can help contextualize geosciences and seismology. No prior readings from these books are needed. Copies of both books will be distributed to the teachers on the day of the seminar.

  • Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud
  • Geopedia by Marcia Bjornerud