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Crustal Deformation Group
at Columbia University

The Crust-Def Group at Columbia University investigates how the earth's crust deforms in response to tectonic loading and how the deformation process leads to earthquake rupture and sedimentary basin development. Our research employs and integrates field observations, geophysical imaging, numerical modeling, and laboratory geomechanical rock testing experiments.

Group Members
Folarin Kolawole, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Kolawole is the Principal investigator at the Crust-Def Group at Columbia University. He integrates field geological observations, geophysical imaging, and laboratory geomechanics to study the brittle deformation of the Earth's crust. Currently, Fola's research focus is on investigating 1.) how strain is localized during the early stages of continental extension, and 2.) basement structures that influence anthropogenically induced earthquakes and natural intraplate earthquakes and their associated geomechanical controls.

Rasheed Ajala, Ph.D. (NSF Postdoc Fellow, Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow)

Dr. Ajala is a Lamont-Doherty Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. His primary research area is Computational Seismology, and he is interested in developing and utilizing seismic imaging techniques to understand the Earth’s crustal structure and tectonic evolution, and improving seismic hazard assessment. His study areas include Southern California, Indo-Burma, Madagascar, East and Southern Africa.

Currently, his research is focused on integrating structural geology concepts with seismology, and geodynamic modeling to investigate the crustal structure and geodynamics of Salton Trough (Southern California), the magma-poor Western Branch of the East African Rift System, and Cascadia subduction margin.

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Zach Foster-Baril, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Research Scientist)

Dr. Foster-Baril is a Postdoctoral scientist position at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. His primary research area is low-temperature thermochronology, and his research investigates the thermo-tectonic evolution of rifted continental margins, particularly the Eastern North American Margin (ENAM).

At the Crust-Def Lab, he will be exploring the spatiotemporal patterns of tectono-thermal strain accommodation along the northern segments of ENAM and many poorly-understood segments of the East African Rift System.

Leonard Ohenhen (Incoming Fall 2024 Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow)

Leonard Ohenhen will be starting a Lamont Postdoc Fellow position this Fall after the completion of his Ph.D. at the Earth Observation & Innovation Lab at Virginia Tech. Leonard is a geodesist/geophysicist specialized in satellite geodesy, signal processing, near surface geophsyics, as applied to the physics of crustal deformation.

At the Crust-Def Lab, he will be using cutting edge geodetic techniques to explore the spatiotemporal patterns of active tectonic deformation in California, as well as in areas of active surface subsidence along the Eastern North American coastal margin.

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Christian Rowan (PhD Student)

Chris is investigating the structural evolution of multi-stage volcanic rift zones, specifically in the Turkana Depression of the East African Rift System. Chris's research involves the integration of field geology (structure and sedimentology)seismic reflection interpretation, and potential field geophysics to investigate how juvenile active rift basins evolve through space and time. Prior to joining Columbia, Chris obtained a MS degree in geology from Rutgers University where he investigated Cenozoic volcanic sequences in the Turkana Rift Basin.

Meritxell Colet (PhD Student)


At the Crustal Deformation Lab, Meritxell's research focuses on investigating how how fault geometry, fine-scale structure, regional and local stresses control the reactivation and kinematics of plate boundary faults. Her research approach integrates field structural geology, seismology, and geodynamic modeling. Prior to joining the Crust-Def Lab, Meritxell worked as a Field System Engineer and Analyst at the Infrasound Lab (ISLA) at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH).

Sydney Maguire (PhD Student)

Sydney’s research at CU's Crustal Deformation Lab focuses on investigating how the kinematics and slip history of active faults vary in space and time within active continental rifts with focus on the East African Rift System and Walker Lane, California. Her research has implications for basin evolution, landscape evolution, and earthquake hazards. Her research approach includes field structural geology, tectonic geomorphology, and age dating techniques (thermochronology, cosmogenic nuclide dating, and rock varnish relative dating). Prior to joining the Crust-Def Lab, Sydney completed a MS degree at UNC Chapel Hill where she investigated slip rates on the Garlock Fault, California.

Cameron Grant (Undergraduate Researcher)

Cameron (CU 2024) is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences. He joined the Crust-Def lab in Fall 2022. He is currently investigating fault scaling relationships along the East African Rift System. His research involves the integration of remote sensing, field structural geology, and geophysics to investigate fault growth in rift basins.

Lela Kornfeld (Undergraduate Researcher)

Lela is a Sophomore, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences. She is  investigating the structure of damage and alteration zones along active faults in eastern California. Her research involves field-based structural mapping and laboratory analysis of fault rock microstructure.

Previous Lab Members
Eva Sharman (Undergraduate Researcher, Fall 2023)
Eva is an undergraduate student, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. During her time with the lab, she worked on a project investigating upper mantle seismic anisotropy patterns beneath a segment of the East African Rift System.
Macy Matthews (Undergraduate Researcher, Summer 2023)
Macy is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences. During her internship, she worked on a research that involve the mapping of fracture systems in subsurface cores.
Krista Watson (NSF-REU Intern, Summer 2023)

Krista is an undergraduate major in Ecology at Gateway Community College, Connecticut. During their NSF-REU internship at the CU Crust-Def lab, Krista investigated crustal deformation and geomorphic expression of incipient rift reactivation in a basin along the East African Rift System.

Sarah H. Alsharif (Undergraduate Researcher, Summer 2023)

Sarah is an undergraduate student in Earth and Environmental Engineering. During her summer research at tour lab, she worked on a research involving the use of tectonic geomorphology techniques to map surface-rupturing fault distribution in an active rift along the East African Rift System.

Farhan Tanvir (Undergraduate Researcher, Summer 2023)

Farhan is an applied physics undergraduate student, working on research involving the use of seismology techniques for imaging upper-crustal structure and tectonic deformation beneath a rift along the East African Rift System.

Patrick Boston (Visiting Intern, Summer 2023)

Patrick is an undergraduate major in Geology at Mid-Western State University, Texas. During his internship at our lab, he worked on the coupling of brittle damage and fault displacement across a border fault relay zone in the Albertine Rift, Uganda.

Lawson Goodloe (Undergraduate Researcher, Fall 2022)

Lawson is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Earth & Environmental Engineering. Lawson's research in our lab utilized seismology techniques to investigate crustal structure beneath an active rift zone.

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