Here is a brief introduction of my research in the form of Q&A.

Can we predict earthquakes?

Short answer: No (as of February, 2018).

Longer answer: see  this Wikipedia page

Then what can we do instead?

Although we cannot forecast earthquakes, we can predict the intensity of ground shaking if an earthquake is to happen—this is the overarching goal of my PhD research: ground motion predictions.

Why do we do ground motion predictions?

  1. It informs civil engineers (quantitatively) how strong the new buildings should be; 
  2. It helps governments better make disaster response plans more effectively;
  3. It helps promote public awareness of potential earthquake damages.
In short: it helps save lives and save money.

What is my specific role in this field?

Specifically, my research focuses on the near-surface sediments, or "site response", which deals with how much the soils beneath us amplify the intensity of ground shaking.

Check out the video below and see how a soil foundation amplifies ground shaking, and how realistic our group's prediction is:

[This is the ground motion of the 2011/3/11 Mw 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan recorded by a seismometer 30 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (福島第一原子力発電所). Movie speed is 6⅔ times faster than actual time. The house on the ground surface is not drawn to scale.]