Johnson Receives 2009 Early Career Tectonophysics Award

Kaj M. Johnson received the 2009 Early Career Tectonophysics Award at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early career contributions to tectonophysics.


johnson_kajThe AGU Tectonophysics section has picked a perfect candidate in Kaj Johnson for its first Early Career Award. Those of us who have worked with Kaj have long been amazed by his breadth of scientific interest, the depth of his understanding of geodynamic research problems, his technical creativity in finding innovative ways to address them, and his generosity in sharing ideas and successes with students, postdocs, and scientific collaborators. It’s hard to think of anyone better suited to receive this award.

In his relatively short research career—as a grad student at Stanford, a postdoc at Berkeley, and now a faculty member at Indiana University—Kaj has addressed a remarkable array of geodynamic problems. He has examined regional tectonic processes associated with the Philippine-Eurasia collision in Taiwan and postseismic deformation in the aftermath of the Parkfield, Denali, and Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes; explored structural processes associated with fault-related folding; developed new methods of probabilistic inversion of geodetic data; and studied the frictional properties of fault zones from postearthquake transients. His more recent work has extended these horizons to work on regional geodynamic models of the India-Eurasia collision zone in Tibet; magmatic deformation and tectonomagmatic interaction in the Long Valley Caldera; and intraplate deformation and seismicity in the U.S. midcontinent. Kaj has a seemingly endless range of interests and a bottomless well of collaborative research energy.

What is unusual about Kaj’s work is the blend of geodynamic theory and rigorous mathematical and computational methods that are grounded in observational structural geology, seismology, and geodesy. Kaj has remarkable intuition about critical geological problems and thoughtful and creative ways of addressing them through geodynamic modeling. All of us who have worked with Kaj believe he is the outstanding young tectonophysicist in the country and is greatly deserving of this recognition from AGU.


Michael Hamburger, Indiana University, Bloomington


Thank you, Michael, for the very kind citation. It is a great honor to receive the first Early Career Tectonophysics Award. I feel fortunate to have had a group of very good teachers and mentors throughout my graduate education and my early career.

My father, Arvid Johnson, taught me how to do science: how to make observations, how to formulate analogies for the processes underlying the observations, and how to carry out theoretical analyses of these analogies. His work and scientific approach inspired me to work on the underlying physical processes involved in active deformation.

I was then lucky to get to work with my Ph.D. advisor, Paul Segall, at Stanford. I could not have had a better Ph.D. advisor, and Paul continues to provide the most valuable advice I receive. Roland Bürgmann at Berkeley was a wonderful postdoc advisor and a pleasure to work with. I can only hope that a little bit of Roland’s unwavering enthusiasm for science has rubbed off on me.

My colleagues at Indiana University have provided me with an ideal setting to get my feet on the ground and establish a career. I am especially grateful to my geophysics mentors at Indiana, Michael Hamburger and Gary Pavlis.

I continue to be encouraged by the Earth science community’s intentional efforts to support and include early-career scientists in the scientific community in a variety of ways, including awards such as this one.

Kaj M. Johnson, Indiana University, Bloomington