German A. Prieto

Seismology / Geophysics

Seismology / Geophysics

Associate Professor

Department of Geosciences

Science Faculty

National University of Colombia – Bogotá Campus


I am Associate Professor at the Departamento de GeocienciasFacultad de Ciencias in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I am also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My research focuses on understanding the diversity of earthquakes and the associated ground motions expected on the surface of the Earth.

I received my PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego working with Peter Shearer and Frank Vernon on scaling properties of earthquakes using state-of-the-art signal processing on some of the largest datasets at the time. I was a Thompson Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University working on seismic tomography and ground motion predictions using the ambient seismic field. Prior to my appointment at Universidad Nacional, I was a faculty member at MIT and before that faculty and head of the Geosciences program at Universidad de los Andes. I have also been a Visiting profesor at IPGP in 2012, and at MIT (2017-2018). 

My main interest is to use seismic records to understand the earthquake source, the interior of the Earth and how both affect the ground motions that we feel on the Earth’s surface. Seismological observations are affected by the internal structure of the Earth, for example amplification of seismic waves in sedimentary basins. The nature of the earthquake source has also a significant impact on ground motions, and I am interested in a better understanding of earthquake ruptures, i.e., are large earthquakes different from the more common small ones?

My research focuses in understanding the physics of earthquakes, how and why earthquakes occur, how they grow to become large damaging processes and what to expect of the ground motions on the surface of the Earth. As an observational seismologist I analyze large amounts of seismic data in order to test predictions from physically based models, allowing me to draw conclusions about fundamental questions in seismology. For example, by stacking hundreds of spectra I was able to show the similarity of earthquake rupture regardless of the size or magnitude of the events. I have been involved in using non-earthquake (ambient noise) data to investigate the ground motions of possible future earthquakes. More recently I have shown that it is also possible to extract the anelastic structure (attenuation) of the Earth from the ambient seismic field. In my research I develop advanced analysis techniques to answer these and other relevant questions.

Current research projects can be found here.



2007 Ph.D. (Earth Sciences) UC San Diego

2004 M. Sc. (Earth Sciences) UC San Diego

2002 B.S. (Geology) Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Professional Experience

2017 – Present  Associate Professor – Universidad Nacional de Colombia

2016 – 2017      Associate Professor – Universidad del Rosario

2013 – 2016      Assistant Professor – MIT

2009 – 2013      Assistant Professor – Universidad de los Andes

2007 – 2008      Thompson Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University

2002 – 2007      Graduate Student Researcher UC San Diego

External Service 

2020 – Actual    Editor Geophysical Research Letters

2020 – 2021      AGU Canvassing Committee – Seismology

2013 – 2020      Associate Editor J. Geophysical Research (Solid Earth)

2019 – 2020      AGU Fall Meeting Program Committee – Seismology

2016 – 2017      Keiiti Aki Award Committee Member AGU Seismology Section 


2011 Editors Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, JGR-Solid Earth, AGU

2010 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award (video)

2007 – 2008 Thompson Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research Interests

Earthquake source physics. Regional seismic tomography and Q-tomography based on the ambient seismic field. Wave propagation and Scattering. Structure of subduction zones and intermediate depth earthquakes. Observational seismology based on large data sets. Time series analysis and advanced signal processing tools. Inverse theory.