Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Research Associate







Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





Earthquake Seismology

Stephen’s research aims to answer a variety of scientific problems surrounding earthquake ruptures, tectonic plate boundaries, and dynamic processes in the Earth's solid interior. Stephen has published worked on subduction zone plate boundaries, which have helped to develop life on Earth, but they have the power to take life away during damaging earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Stephen uses recordings of seismic waves from earthquakes to probe the complex 3-D subsurface structure of subduction zones and to understand the mechanics of large earthquake ruptures.

Earthquake simulation

3-D computer simulation of an earthquake in Chile

Prior to starting at Imperial College, Stephen worked in the Department of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton where he worked on the NERC large consortium VoiLA project. Stephen also previously held a commercial position at Güralp Systems Ltd, where he worked on complex seismic monitoring projects such as ocean bottom seismometer observatories and earthquake early warning systems.

DocumentaryInterviewStephen completed his PhD in Earthquake Seismology at the University of Liverpool, UK. His PhD thesis revealed how the ancient geological structure beneath South America can still drive the rupture characteristics of modern-day large earthquakes. With co-authors, he also showed how possible ‘doublet’ earthquakes may be hidden from global monitoring networks. This finding may help to optimise tsunami warning systems in the future. From his PhD thesis, he published four papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals, including one article in Nature Geoscience.

In 2009, Stephen spent a summer working at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC). He also has experience in seismometer deployments and fieldwork across the globe.

Stephen blogs on popular earth science topics and he is available for media work.


Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Lecocq T, Hicks SP, Van Noten K, et al., 2020, Global quieting of high-frequency seismic noise due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures, Science, ISSN:0036-8075, Pages:eabd2438-eabd2438

Cooper GF, Macpherson CG, Blundy JD, et al., 2020, Variable water input controls evolution of the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc, Nature, Vol:582, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:525-529

Lacassin R, Devès M, Hicks SP, et al., 2020, Rapid collaborative knowledge building via Twitter after significant geohazard events, Geoscience Communication, Vol:3, ISSN:2569-7110, Pages:129-146

Bie L, Rietbrock A, Hicks S, et al., 2020, Along‐arc heterogeneity in local seismicity across the lesser antilles subduction zone from a dense ocean‐bottom seismometer network, Seismological Research Letters, Vol:91, ISSN:0895-0695, Pages:237-247

Hicks S, Verdon J, Baptie B, et al., 2019, A Shallow Earthquake Swarm Close to Hydrocarbon Activities: Discriminating between Natural and Induced Causes for the 2018–2019 Surrey, United Kingdom, Earthquake Sequence, Seismological Research Letters, Vol:90, ISSN:0895-0695, Pages:2095-2110

Hicks SP, 2019, Geoscience analysis on Twitter, Nature Geoscience, Vol:12, ISSN:1752-0894, Pages:585-586

Cordell D, Unsworth MJ, Diaz D, et al., 2019, Fluid and melt pathways in the central Chilean subduction zone near the 2010 Maule earthquake (35° ‐ 36° S) as inferred from magnetotelluric data, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, Vol:20, ISSN:1525-2027, Pages:1818-1835

Bie L, Hicks S, Garth T, et al., 2018, ‘Two go together’: near-simultaneous moment release of two asperities during the 2016 Mw 6.6 Muji, China earthquake, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol:491, ISSN:0012-821X, Pages:34-42

Verdon JP, Kendall J-M, Hicks SP, et al., 2017, Using beamforming to maximise the detection capability of small, sparse seismometer arrays deployed to monitor oil field activities, Geophysical Prospecting, Vol:65, ISSN:0016-8025, Pages:1582-1596

Hicks SP, Rietbrock A, 2015, Seismic slip on an upper-plate normal fault during a large subduction megathrust rupture, Nature Geoscience, Vol:8, Pages:955-960

Hicks SP, Rietbrock A, Ryder IMA, et al., 2014, Anatomy of a megathrust: The 2010 M8.8 Maule, Chile earthquake rupture zone imaged using seismic tomography, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol:405, Pages:142-155

Hicks SP, Rietbrock A, Haberland CA, et al., 2012, The 2010 Mw 8.8 Maule, Chile earthquake: Nucleation and rupture propagation controlled by a subducted topographic high, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol:39

Hicks SP, Nippress SEJ, Rietbrock A, 2012, Sub-slab mantle anisotropy beneath south-central Chile, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol:357-358, Pages:203-213

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