Plate Tectonics and People

Meet the Instructor / Author

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Welcome to EARTH 520!

Photo of Eliza Richardson
Eliza in Mponeng mine, Western Deep Levels, South Africa.
credit: S. Webb

I'm Dr. Eliza Richardson and I am the author for this course, as well as the lead faculty member for the Master of Education in Earth Sciences program. I am an assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State's University Park campus and I am also a fellow of the Dutton Institute for e-Education, housed in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Like Bruce Springsteen, I was born in New Jersey. Unlike The Boss, however, I grew up in Blacksburg, VA. I also spent time living in the Caribbean and England because my parents were academics and sometimes traveled for their research. I received my undergraduate degree in 1996 from Princeton University where I majored in geology & geophysics and got a certificate in East Asian studies. I also manned the goal for Princeton's women's waterpolo team for four years. I went to graduate school at MIT and finished my Ph.D. in 2002. My doctoral research was in seismology; I managed several stints of field work at about 3 km below the ground in South Africa studying the earthquakes induced by gold mining (see me in the photo above sitting along the rupture path of an underground earthquake).

My current research involves the physics of earthquake sources. I am interested in how earthquakes begin, what makes them stop, and what happens along a fault while the earthquake is going on. When scientists can describe precisely these three parts of an earthquake, we'll be a lot closer to predicting them or at least mitigating the damage they cause.

Before I became the lead faculty member of the Master of Education in Earth Sciences program, I had never taught online, I had never developed courses designed for teachers, and I had never organized a curriculum. (And they still let me do it! ha!) I have discovered that teaching adults online has many advantages, and five of them are pictured below. Yes, I do have five kids, but the flexibility of the asynchronous online environment means that no matter who puked during the night, who forgot their lunch, or who totalled the car, I can still teach this course effectively. It also means that I am sympathetic to the demands of your career and family.

Let's have a great semester together!

5 kids on a trampoline
Eliza's kids
source: E. Richardson