Susan E. Hough

United States Geological Survey
Pasadena, California

I received an A.B. degree in geophysics with honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982 and a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.C. San Diego in 1987. My Ph.D. research focused on the attenuation of high-frequency seismic waves. I spent four years as a post-doctoral scientist at Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in New York, working on several projects related to ground motions and earthquake source studies. During this time I led the deployment of portable digital seismometers around the failed Nimitz Freeway following the Loma Prieta earthquake, the first of many aftershock deployments I have led. I joined the Pasadena office of the US Geological Survey in March of 1992. I was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2008, and have published over 100 articles in the peer-reviewed literature. My research interests include continued work on ground motions and source properties, including investigation of remotely triggered earthquakes; intraplate earthquakes; historical earthquakes in central North America and elsewhere; and seismic hazard in south Asia.


Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake I led the USGS effort to deploy portable seismometers to record aftershocks, and have continued to work with Haitian colleagues to help establish permanent seismic monitoring in the country. This has been my most challenging as well as my most gratifying scientific project: despite monumental challenges we have been able to do important science and to take initial steps to improve understanding and awareness of hazard in a country where few people had heard of earthquakes prior to January 2010. My research has taken me to interesting corners of the world in recent years: in addition to Haiti, a number of countries in South Asia including India, Pakistan, and Nepal. I now have the opportunity to begin a new small project in Burma. All of these countries are fascinating, culturally as well as scientifically; they all also face enormous and often poorly understood seismic hazard.


In addition to technical articles, I enjoy science writing for a non-specialist audience when the opportunity arises. I've written articles for a number of newspapers and magazines, and published five books on different aspects of earthquake science. Of the books, the most fun to write was the biography of Charles Richter; the best of the books (in my own opinion!) is the last one, on earthquake prediction. I have been married forever: My husband is a biochemist who for the past three years has worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, which makes us a bi-coastal couple for the first time. We have three children who have now left the nest: one is Deputy District Attorney, one works as a computer animator, and one aspires to be a farmer. We have four cats who show no inclination to ever leave the nest, and who do not appreciate my travel schedule.