SCEC Community Spotlight: Kevin Milner

Kevin mentoring interns on UseIT’s 2019 Forecasting and Simulation team.

The SCEC Research Community may know Kevin Milner as the lead developer for the OpenSHA seismic hazard analysis (SHA) platform and for his contributions to the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities, which develops and maintains the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast. However, Kevin’s contributions to the SCEC Community go beyond research.

Kevin first joined the SCEC community in 2006 as an intern with SCEC's Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology (UseIT) program. His summer experience introduced him to earthquake information science, a field where he now applies his programming skills to mitigate the impacts of earthquakes. Over a decade later, he remains connected with SCEC’s most junior members as a research mentor for UseIT. Each Summer, Kevin trains the next generation of earthquake scientists in software development, probabilistic analysis, and manipulating earthquake models (e.g. RSQSim; HAZUS), amongst other areas because he believes it is essential to cross-train future scientists. Kevin believes that “programming skills and data proficiency are incredibly important, no matter your major/focus. They are superpowers that will serve you no matter what direction your career goes.” He impresses mentees with his knowledge (of all things SCEC-VDO) and with his ability to translate advanced concepts (the annual Grand Challenges) into simpler, concrete assignments with a reasonable workflow.

Perhaps he is known as the “cool” mentor because he challenges interns “the right amount” so they give the best of themselves. He allows interns to explore and learn for themselves, while inspiring them to pursue personal passions outside of their academic work (like playing in a band). Kevin’s mentoring approach starts with providing students with a skeleton of tools to ensure eventual success. “I want students to come up with [their] own solution to a complicated problem, because it is so satisfying and empowering. But I also try to be their safety net, especially when students are working on something really difficult, to help slow things down and turn it into concrete steps.”

Kevin playing the lap steep guitar with his band.

Currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern California, Kevin aims to complete his dissertation on improving earthquake forecasts with physical models early in 2020. Even as an early career researcher, he has already had significant contributions and accomplishments. Most notable, Kevin is proud of his work on fully physics-based probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (PSHA) coupling the RSQSim and CyberShake models. “I think that physics-based PSHA is the future, and that we’re doing some really cutting-edge research at SCEC.” He regularly presents his research findings at meetings including SSA, AGU, IUGG, StatSei, UJNR, and was asked to give a talk at a conference on PSHA at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). He has also been highlighted in SSA’s At Work column. He is far along in his career goals of “contributing to the next generation of earthquake rupture forecasts using physical models, reducing uncertainties and spanning time-scales from short-term operational to long-term forecasts.” 

From pushing the boundaries in earthquake forecast modeling, to mentoring SCEC’s next generation of researchers, to jamming to country music with his band, Kevin is an asset to the SCEC community.

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We study why and how earthquakes occur, evaluate their effects, 

and help societies prepare to survive and recover. 

SCEC is headquartered at the University of Southern California with a 

community of more than 1,000 scientists across 75 institutions.