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Demian Saffer

Dr. Demian Saffer, Geoscientist, Penn State

"For me, the most exciting thing about doing science is discovering something new – even if it is only a small piece of the puzzle.”

Demian has always been fascinated by how things work and has always known he wanted to be a scientist. His interest in science started when he was five year olds and took apart his mom’s vacuum cleaner to figure out how it worked… His interest in science (and in particular geology) deepened during family trips to the beach, where he looked at the different layers and fractures in rocks along the coast of Maine, where he grew up.

Now, he combines laboratory experiments on rock samples, scientific drilling to access and sample fault rocks in their natural state, and computer modeling, to try and better understand how tectonic plates move and behave beneath the surface of the earth.

Demian works with scientists from all around the world and this year will be drilling into the Hikurangi plate boundary offshore of Gisborne, to investigate slow slip events. Slow slip events are where movement between the tectonic plates occurs slowly across the subduction zone, over a period of weeks to months, rather than suddenly in a large earthquake.

He wants to understand why some faults generate large damaging earthquakes and tsunamis, whereas others slide, or creep, peacefully. Demian doesn’t think his research will ever end as there are always new questions to answer.