MIT EAPS Directory

Robert van der Hilst

Schlumberger Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Head of Department

Rob van der Hilst’s cross-disciplinary and collaborative research focuses on understanding geological processes in Earth’s deep interior, both on a regional scale – for instance, continental structure and evolution of Tibet, East Asia, and North America, the subduction of oceanic plates beneath western Pacific island arcs, the upper mantle transition zone beneath Hawaii, and the complex region just above the core mantle boundary beneath Asia and Central America – and the global scale, unraveling, for instance, the pattern and nature of mantle convection. The main tools he uses (and develops) are global reflection seismology and seismic tomography, but he integrates these findings with constraints from geology, (geomagnetic) plate reconstructions, mineral physics, and geodynamics.

Van der Hilst received his PhD in Geophysics from Utrecht University in 1990. After postdoctoral research at the University of Leeds (1990-1992) and the Australian National University (1992-1995) he joined the faculty of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) in 1996. From 2004 to 2012 he was the Director of the Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) and since the beginning of 2012 he has been Head of EAPS.


Fang, H. J. and Yao, H. J. and Zhang, H. J. and Huang, Y. C. and van der Hilst, R. D. (2015) Direct inversion of surface wave dispersion for three-dimensional shallow crustal structure based on ray tracing: methodology and application Geophysical Journal International, vol. 201, no. 3, pp. 1251-1263, doi: 10.1093/gji/ggv080

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Schlumberger Professor, MIT (2011-Present) | Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014) | Cecil and Ida Green Professor, MIT (2003-2011) | Kerr-McGee Career Development Professorship, MIT (2011-Present) | VICI Innovative Research Award (2003-2008) | Packard Fellowship (1998) | Fellow, American Geophysical Union (1997) | James B. Macelwane Medal, American Geophysical Union (1997) | Doornbos Memorial Prize, International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth’s Interior (1996)