Diego Melgar works onboard R/V Roger Revelle.

Scripps Graduate Student Honored for Top Research Paper

Annual Frieman Prize honors excellence in graduate student research

Diego Melgar, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego graduate student, has been selected as the 19th recipient of the Edward A. Frieman Prize for Excellence in Graduate Student Research. This award was established in 1996 to honor the eighth director of Scripps, Edward A. Frieman, on his 70th birthday.

The Frieman Prize is given annually to honor Scripps graduate students who have distinguished themselves in their field as measured by the quality of a publication during the previous year. Melgar’s paper, “Near-field tsunami models with rapid earthquake source inversions from land- and ocean-based observations: The potential for forecast and warning,” was published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

Melgar’s paper focuses on the problem of local tsunami warnings. His advisor, Scripps Research Geodesist Yehuda Bock, co-authored the paper.

Although there are currently basin-wide warnings for earthquakes, regional warnings have not yet been implemented. Melgar hopes to close this information gap with his research, which has the potential to save lives.

 “Using the 2011 magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan as an example, I've demonstrated that with using both land- and ocean-based sensors, we could calculate a fairly reasonable model of the earthquake and tsunami within minutes and how those models could provide warning to the coast immediately adjacent to large earthquakes,” said Melgar, a Ph.D. graduate student at the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps.

Melgar’s passion for science and geophysics began as a young boy. “I grew up surrounded by geophysics in Mexico,” said Melgar. “Earthquakes and volcanoes were a fairly common part of life, so I was always interested and I always wanted to know why and how—why do they happen and how do we know that?”  

Attending Scripps Oceanography has allowed Melgar to better understand natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and to create solutions for responding to such events.

“I've been focused on the simple question of how can we know as much as possible about large earthquakes in the least amount of time,” said Melgar, who studies everything from the shaking an earthquake might produce to the size of the tsunami it may cause.

Melgar will be formally recognized with the Frieman Prize at the Scripps Day celebration on June 13, 2014.

“Winning the award feels great,” said Melgar. “After all that hard work, it's refreshing to have the community recognize your efforts and say, ‘Hey, you didn't do so bad.’”

To learn more about the Edward A. Frieman Prize, and to see a complete list of previous recipients, please follow this link: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/people/awards/edward-frieman-prize-excellence-graduate-student-research.

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