Cottaar Receives 2015 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award

Sanne Cottaar will receive the 2015 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes the scientific accomplishments of a young scientist who makes outstanding contributions to the advancement of seismology.


Dr. Sanne Cottaar received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees with distinction from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013.  As a graduate student, she was awarded the Tocher Fellowship, and as a research fellow of Pembroke College and a research associate at the University of Cambridge, she was awarded the Drapers’ Company Research Fellowship.

Sanne has worked, and published, on a wide range of topics concerning the structure and dynamics of Earth’s deep interior.  She used full-waveform modeling to document a very large ultralow-velocity zone at the base of the mantle near Hawaii.  She has used thermochemical convection modeling to argue for convective stability of the inner core. She has used Sdiff waves to study the strength and extent of the Perm anomaly.  She has studied seismic anisotropy at the base of the mantle and identified an asymmetry of azimuthal anisotropy with respect to the edge of the African superplume.  She also carried out multidisciplinary work that explored a model of a subducted slab interacting with the core-mantle boundary. More recently, she has turned her attention to constraining the structure of upper mantle discontinuities.

In addition to these topics, Sanne cocreated the publicly available BurnMan code with a group of junior scientists, which allows investigation of elastic properties for different mineral compositions under different pressures and temperature conditions deep in the Earth (Cottaar et al., Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 2014, doi:10.1002/2013GC005122).

Sanne Cottaar is a creative scientist who has contributed significantly to understanding the deep Earth.  Her approach is primarily seismological but is well informed by information and modeling from allied disciplines.  The Aki Award recognizes the significance of these accomplishments and anticipates further outstanding contributions in the future.

—Gregory C. Beroza, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.



It is with great gratitude and joy that I receive the 2015 Keiiti Aki Award. This has only been possible because of many supportive and generous scientists, of whom I can only name a few here. I thank Barbara Romanowicz,  Arwen Deuss, and Bruce Buffett for the many inspiring years of mentoring, teaching, and supporting the development of my research style and drive. Hanneke Paulssen and Jeannot Trampert introduced me to seismology and research; thank you.

I have benefited greatly from being in many stimulating and welcoming environments, the broader communities at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge, Pembroke College, and the Cooperative Institute for Dynamic Earth Research (CIDER). I also thank their staffs, who keep these institutes up and running. With the research labs, my science siblings, I have enjoyed a lot of pleasurable time in and out of the office; by naming Vedran Lekic and Elizabeth Day,  I thank you all.

I feel very fortunate to be part of the seismology and deep Earth communities. I regard so many of you as collaborators, mentors, and friends. This is also a place to recognize those countless involved in collecting and distributing seismic data, without whom my work on the deeper Earth is not possible.

I thank my parents for my initial conditions and their ever-continued support, my siblings for always challenging me, and now my “niblings” for reminding me to play. I thank my friends across continents for their continual support and welcome distraction.

It remains a privilege to continue learning, being part of a research family, and studying an amazing planet—Earth.

—Sanne Cottaar, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, U.K.