#SoCaltech: Luca Dal Zilio


“I come from Italy, a country that’s quite seismically active, but even if an earthquake happened a few years ago, people have no concept that it could happen again. They are always surprised when there’s an earthquake in the Alps or in the Apennines. People ask me when we are going to be able to predict earthquakes, but that question is simply wrong. We should instead go in the direction of mitigating the effect of earthquakes, because even if we can predict them, that will not prevent them. We need to try to build a culture where people know that earthquakes are just natural events and we have to get used to them. In 2012, when the magnitude 6.1 Emilia-Romagna earthquake happened in Northern Italy, I was in Padua in the university’s department of earth sciences on the third floor. Everyone was very scared, but I have to admit I was very excited. I could feel the building shaking, and I was like, ‘This is not an earthquake,’ and then I realized, ‘Yes, it is. And it’s so cool!’ Of course, I know that earthquakes bring great damage and people die, but as a scientist, just talking about the physical aspect of it, it was super exciting.”

Luca Dal Zilio is a Cecil and Sally Drinkward Postdoctoral Scholar in Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Caltech. His research focuses on the physics of earthquakes and the seismic behavior of mountain belts.

#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.