Dr David Cornwell

Dr David Cornwell
Dr David Cornwell
Dr David Cornwell

BSc (Leicester), MSc (Leeds), PhD (Leicester), FHEA, FRAS

Senior Lecturer

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 273448
Office Address
141 Meston Building
Old Aberdeen Campus
Meston Walk
AB24 3UE

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School of Geosciences


Dave joined the Department of Geology and Geophysics as a Lecturer in Geophysics in January 2013. He previously spent over 5 years in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds as a Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow in Geophysics, continuing his research and teaching on the MSc Exploration Geophysics and undergraduate geophysics programmes. His PhD, entitled "Magmatic continental rift zones: the Ethiopian Rift", was awarded from the University of Leicester in 2008, where he was supervised by Prof. Peter Maguire and Prof. Richard England. He also held the post of Graduate Teaching Assistant in Geophysics and taught undergraduate seismic processing and field geophysics. He achieved his MSc. in Exploration Geophysics from the University of Leeds in 2001 and BSc. in Geophysics (Geological) from the University of Leicester in 1999 and spent a year in Menlo Park, CA, as part of the USGS Western Earthquake Hazards Team.   


  • BSc Geophysics (Geological) 
    1999 - University of Leicester 
  • MSc. Exploration Geophysics 
    2001 - University of Leeds 
  • PhD Seismology 
    2008 - University of Leicester 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships
External Memberships
  • British Geophysical Association (BGA) council.

Latest Publications

View My Publications

Prizes and Awards

  • Royal Astronomical Association (RAS) Higher Education Award 2024

Research Overview

I am an observational seismologist and geophysicist who works on imaging the Earth at a variety of scales. My work involves field deployment/acquisition, processing, modelling and interpretation of complex datasets to investigate a variety of Earth processes.

Keywords: Tectonics, seismology, gravity, crustal structure, upper mantle structure, lithosphere heterogeneity, magmatism, rifting, strike slip faulting, anisotropy, receiver functions, shear wave splitting, ambient noise tomography, body wave tomography, near surface geophysics (GPR, resistivity, magnetics, seismic), geophysical data processing & inversion, scientific coding, machine learning.

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Geology and Geophysics.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Geology and Geophysics

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Geophysics

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

Currently characterising crust and mantle structure in Borneo, lithosphere imaging in northern Turkey, and using shallow geophysics for a variety of applications. 

Past Research

Crust and mantle structure at plate margins using seismology and gravity methods.  My research encompasses:

  • Imaging magma-rich continental rift zones and developing new models of rift initiation and development (Ethiopia and the North Atlantic)
  • Mapping the mantle transition zone using receiver functions (Ethiopia)
  • Characterising the velocity and anisotropy of crust and mantle layers with shear wave splitting, receiver functions, tomography and ambient noise techniques (Faroe Islands, Ethiopia and Turkey)
  • Passive seismology for hydrocarbon exploration (Faroe Islands)


My current supervision areas are: Geology and Geophysics.

I am or have been a PhD supervisor for:

Ahmed Madani - "". Saudi Ministry PhD Scholarship. Started September 2021. 

Sophia Baker - "". Sponsored by University of Aberdeen. Started September 2021. 

Millie Coleman - "". Sponsored by QUADRAT. Started October 2021. 

Lukman Inuwa Gani - "". Sponsored by PTDF. Started February 2020.

Zhihua (Josh) Cui - "" . Sponsored by University of Aberdeen. Started October 2018. 

Azam Amirshakirami - "". Sponsored by University of Aberdeen. Started October 2018. 

Panayiota Sketsiou - "". Sponsored by NERC Oil & Gas CDT. Started October 2017.

Bartosz Kurjanski - "Characterisation of glacigenic reservoirs and landsystems using sedimentology, geomorphology and virtual outcrop mapping". Sponsored by NERC Oil & Gas CDT. Started October 2016.

Waheed Akande - "". Sponsored by PTDF. Started October 2016. 

Emily Crowder - "Seismic imaging without a source: Towards cost effective and low environmental impact hydrocarbon exploration". Sponsored by NERC Oil & Gas CDT. Started October 2016. 

Obeid Saitabau Lemna - "Geophysical Interpretation and Geodynamic Evolution of the Rukwa Rift Basin in the East African Rift System, SW Tanzania". Started October 2015.

Mohammed Bello - "Joint Traveltime Tomography for Crustal and Upper Mantle Velocity and Interface Structure - Linking Tasmania and mainland Australia using passive seismic imaging techniques". Sponsored by University of Aberdeen/ATBU. Started July 2015.

Elvira Papaleo- "Seismologically imaging the North Anatolian Fault Zone (Turkey) using multi-scale tomography methods for earthquake hazard assessment". Sponsored by University of Aberdeen. Started October 2014.

Carmelo Sammarco - "Seismic imaging of the lithosphere: investigating structural continuity between the crust and upper mantle". Sponsored by University of Aberdeen. Started July 2014.

Maral Halliyeva - "Characterising glacigenic reservoirs using geophysical studies". Sponsored by Senergy/University of Aberdeen. Started November 2013. Now at Earthworks Reservoir (www.earthworks-reservoir.com)

Jon Basell - "Characterising glacigenic reservoirs using modelling and analogue studies". Sponsored by Senergy/University of Aberdeen. Started October 2013.

Ben Allen - "Basin structure and sill emplacement in the Faroe-Shetland Basin". Sponsored by E.ON Ruhrgras UK. Started November 2012.

Sulaiman Alsulami - "Tectonic Variation and Structural Evolution of the West Greenland Continental Margin". Sponsored by Saudi Aramco (passed viva September 2014).



  • Shear wave model of Sabah, North Borneo, from surface wave tomography

    Supplementary Information from "Post-subduction tectonics of Sabah, North Borneo, inferred from surface wave tomography" by Tim Greenfield, Amy Gilligan, Simone Pilia, David G. Cornwall, Felix Tongkul, Sri Widiyantoro & Nick Rawlinson
  • Supplemental Datafiles for the manuscript "Crustal structure of northern Borneo from VDSS: Implications for subduction termination and the tectonic reconstruction of SE Asia"

    Processed waveform data (windowed/filtered) from the seismic stations for the Virtual Deep Seismic Sounding (VDSS) study in northern Borneo.


Teaching Responsibilities

  • MSc. Geophysics Programme Director (June 2017-August 2021)
  • GL5545 - Seismic Reflection Theory and Processing (practical processing with SeisSpace/ProMAX)(module manager)
  • GL5575 - Seismology & Earth Imaging (module manager)
  • GL2511 - Geophysics


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • University Level Teaching Award 2 (ULTA-2), University of Leeds, 2011 (60 Masters-level credits)
  • University of Aberdeen teaching training



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