Semechah Lui

Semechah Lui
Monday, September 9, 2019 - 9:05am

POSITION: Assistant Professor, Tenure Stream

ACADEMIC UNIT:  Chemical & Physical Sciences



Determining what triggers an earthquake and when offers a lot of questions yet to be answered.”

Semechah Lui, a geophysicist and assistant professor at UTM, first discovered a passion for geology and physical geography during high school in Hong Kong. Following a major earthquake in China, her interest shifted to geophysics during undergraduate and graduate studies in the U.S.

“I wanted to study something geology-related with a practical impact,” Lui says. “I decided natural hazards were the way to go. It struck me that earthquakes were occurring every day, including a lot of small ones that can’t be felt. The destructive power of the big ones motivated me to understand them better. They happen so abruptly and the whole process is so complex.

“We have a long way to go to understand earthquakes,” Lui notes. “We rely on a lot of data to understand what happens underground, but determining what triggers an earthquake and when offers a lot of questions yet to be answered.”

One of Lui’s research interests is earthquake cycles: how they repeat, what happens between seismic events and how stress builds up on fault zones. She has also carved out a niche in the field of induced seismicity – earthquakes caused by human activities.

“In Oklahoma, for example, there has been a drastic increase in seismicity rate in the past decade,” Lui says. “Studies have shown that they are related to oil extraction and the disposal of wastewater produced during the process that has been injected into the subsurface. I study how these earthquakes are triggered and use computer modelling to understand the process.”

Although she had never been to UTM prior to her job interview, Lui is delighted by her experiences here. “It’s the most diverse department I’ve been in, and it’s just such a nice community that’s very tightly knit,” she says.

Selected Publications:

1. S. K. Y. Lui and Y. Huang, Do injection-induced earthquakes rupture away from injection wells due to fluid pressure change?, Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., doi: 10.1785/0120180233 (2019).

 2. S. K. Y. Lui and N. Lapusta, Modeling high stress drops, scaling, interaction, and irregularity of repeating microearthquake sequences near Parkfield, J. Geophys. Res., doi: 10.1029/2018JB016472 (2018). 

3. S. K. Y. Lui and N. Lapusta, Repeating microearthquake sequences interact predominantly through postseismic slip, Nature Communications 7, 13020 (2016).  

Read about other new faculty members at UTM.