David T. Sandwell
Professor of Geophysics
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics

David Sandwell is a professor of geophysics in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He studies geological structures of deep-ocean basins using satellites and ships.

His current research focuses on understanding the undersea plate tectonics of unchartered areas of the remote oceans as well as the earthquake cycle along the San Andreas Fault System.

Born in Hartford, CT, Sandwell graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He received a master’s degree in geophysics and a PhD in geophysics and space physics, both from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Following graduation, Sandwell was a research geophysicist at the National Geodetic Survey in Rockville, Maryland. He joined the staff of the University of Texas, Austin, with a joint appointment as a research scientist for the Institute for Geophysics and the Center for Space Research. Sandwell then came to Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Sandwell’s work centers on mapping large topographic features beneath the deep ocean using data collected by remote-sensing instruments on earth-orbiting satellites. Detailed maps of ocean-surface topography can be constructed by compiling satellite altimeter profiles. Sandwell and a colleague at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed the most detailed picture to date of the global seafloor. These data provided scientists with the first uniform resolution view of 70 percent of the earth and opened up new areas of marine geology and geophysics and research into other oceanographic applications. He uses these data to investigate the tectonics and geodynamics of the ocean basins. He was also involved in the Magellan mapping mission to understand the geodynamics of Venus. Much of his current research is focused on the use of radar interferometry data to measure crustal deformations associated with earthquake processes.

In addition to research and teaching, Sandwell serves as an advisor to NASA and the National Research Council on geophysical initiatives. He has served two terms as associate editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research, was an editor of Earth Interactions, and associate editor of Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics. He is currently president of the Geodesy Section of the American Geophysical Union.

Sandwell received the George P. Woollard Award from the Geological Society of America. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a member of the International Association of Geodesy and the Society for Exploration Geophysics. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2012 became a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has published more than 130 scientific papers.

Last updated May 2011