Andy Hooper

University of Leeds

2016 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Andy Hooper was awarded the 2016 James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding ­­early-­career scientist.”


Andy Hooper is a specialist and innovator in geodetic imaging methods using interferometric analysis of satellite radar images (­InSAR). At the same time, he has improved our understanding of magmatism and tectonics with geophysical models interpreting ground deformation. He is unusual in being at the top of his field in the technical aspects of geodetic data acquisition and processing, as well as being one of the leading modelers of geodetic data.

With InSAR analysis, the phases of radar echoes on multiple passes of a satellite over the same terrain are compared to reveal changes in the ­­line-­of-­sight distance between the satellite and the ground. One approach to the problem is to identify those image pixels for which the radar echo is dominated by a single dominant scatterer. One of Andy’s contributions was to develop an approach to identify such persistent scatterers using phase stability, the parameter of interest, rather than radar brightness as in earlier methods. He also made no assumptions about the temporal nature of the deformation, rather relying on the spatial coherence of the deformation signal. His algorithms offered several significant advances and are well suited for nonurban settings such as volcanoes. This work has had major impact, with his four papers on the subject attracting over 1500 citations to date.

Andy has unselfishly shared his advanced approaches to the analysis of ­InSAR time series by releasing his software (Stamps) to the community as open-source code, significantly impacting the community of scientists using satellite geodesy. The software has been used in a wide range of applications spanning volcanic and tectonic deformation through to urban subsidence caused by water extraction. In 2015 alone, over 150 papers were published that used the Stamps software.

Andy’s work on volcanic and tectonic processes has also had a major impact. In particular, he has led modeling efforts to understand magmatic processes in Iceland associated with recent eruptions, as well as demonstrating how ice cap retreat in Iceland can perturb the crustal stress state sufficiently to alter the tendency for magma to be trapped within the crust as opposed to erupting. His results have been published in several ­­high-­level journal articles. Since moving to the United Kingdom in 2013, Andy has helped establish Leeds as a ­­world-­leading research center for applied satellite geodesy.

—Freysteinn Sigmundsson, University of Iceland, Reykjavík


Thank you to the medal committee for this award, which I am honored to receive, and thank you, Freysteinn, for those generous words. I do feel fortunate to be in a position where I can straddle two realms, working as both engineer and scientist.

Scientific endeavor is all about people, of course, and there are many exceptional individuals responsible for my being in this position today, although I can mention only a few here. My Ph.D. advisors at Stanford, Paul Segall, himself a former Macelwane Medal recipient, and Howard Zebker, mentored me through graduate school and taught me intellectual rigor and critical thinking. Their influence continues to very much shape my own approach to scientific problems.

My time spent during a postdoc in Iceland gave me the chance to live close to volcanoes. There, from Freysteinn Sigmundsson, I learned the importance of collaboration and working across disciplines, and I continue to work closely with colleagues there today.

Ramon Hanssen was instrumental then in getting me hired at Delft, where I spent several years in an engineering faculty, learning how to deal robustly with observations and errors. Ramon also taught me much about strategic thinking.

Now I am back in a ­­geoscience-­focused environment at Leeds, where I work with many talented individuals. Tim Wright, with whom I collaborate particularly closely, deserves special mention, and I have learned a great deal about leadership from him.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job has been working with graduate students. I have gained much from two former students, in particular, David Bekaert and Karsten Spaans, whom I had the pleasure of advising both during their master’s degrees at Delft and then during their Ph.D. studies at Leeds.

There have been many others who have shaped the way I think about science and have contributed to this award. My wife, Julia, deserves special thanks for her advice on all aspects of scientific life, from dealing with colleagues to wrestling with gritty scientific problems. Last, I thank my children for keeping me grounded. When I told my 8-­year-­old son Tom, a keen runner, I had been awarded a medal, he was pretty impressed—until he found out that I had not actually won a race.

—Andy Hooper, University of Leeds, Leeds, U.K.