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SCEC Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology (SCEC/UseIT)

SCEC/UseIT is supported by the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Site program (REU), the USC Department of Earth Sciences, the USC Undergraduate Research Program, SCEC, and other funders which vary from year to year. Significant funding for USEIT has been provided by Mr. George Joseph the founder and chairman of the Board, Mercury General Corporation.

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Program Overview

The Southern California Earthquake Center/Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology program (SCEC/UseIT), unites undergraduates who are sophomores, juniors, or seniors in the coming fall, taking potentially any major, and coming from colleges and universities across the continent to participate in a leading-edge program at SCEC headquarters at the University of Southern California (USC).

SCEC/UseIT interns work on multi-disciplinary, collaborative teams to tackle a scientific “Grand Challenge” posed by SCEC director Dr. Thomas Jordan. The Grand Challenge varies each year but always entails performing computer science research that is needed by earthquake scientists or outreach professionals. 

During prior terms, UseIT interns have developed software visualization platforms called LA3D and SCEC-VDO (Virtual Display of Objects). These are object-oriented, open-source, internet-enabled software packages for interactive, 4D display of diverse data sets important to earthquake scientists. SCEC-VDO is now in use by a growing number of SCEC scientists.

A key aspect of the UseIT program is its flexible, yet structured, multi-disciplinary, team approach. Students share their diverse skills and interests, creating a powerful synergy through this peer mentoring. The majority of UseIT interns have considerable computer science skill or aptitude, but successful UseIT interns have hailed from nearly three dozen disciplines, all class levels, and all skill levels. Successful UseIT interns have in common a willingness to step outside their comfort zones and try new things.

The USEIT program website has descriptions of each summer's interns, projects, and products.

Visits by guest scientists and UseIT alumni occur throughout the summer to give UseIT interns perspective on the enormous range of research being done at SCEC as well as the great variety of their potential career options.

The 2016 USEIT program will be conducted from June 13 to August 5, 2016.

Program Goals 

The name and the acronym communicate the central goals of the program. SCEC/UseIT was established to:

  1. allow undergraduates to use, hands-on, the advanced tools of information technology to solve important problems in interdisciplinary earthquake research;
  2. close the gap between two fields of undergraduate study – computer science and geoscience – by cross-training students in the modes of understanding distinct to these disciplines;
  3. engage non-geoscience majors in the application of earth science to the priactical problems of reducing earthquake risk, and thereby inform students with varied backgrounds how their classroom skills can be applied to significant social issues;
  4. interest, train, and retain talented students from outside the earth sciences, including women, members of underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities; and
  5. teach students to succeed in collaborative, multidisciplinary workplace settings in and out of research arenas.

Student Compensation and Housing


Each SCEC/UseIT intern receives a stipend of $5000 for 8 weeks of research. This stipend is expected to cover food, housing, parking, and incidentals.


Housing is available on the USC campus for any interested USEIT student. The cost of the housing will be deducted from the stipend.