Tel: +966 (013) 860-5239

Location: Bldg. 76, Rm. 2135

Dr. Simone Pilia

Assistant Professor, Department of Geosciences

My research focuses on observational seismology. I specialize in extracting information from seismic records in order to understand local and lithospheric structure. I use active and passive seismic tomography coupled with cutting-edge inversion methods, and have enough knowledge of tectonic processes to get me into trouble during interpretation of seismic images. I possess a vast and inter-disciplinary core skill-set, ranging from extensive experience in configuring and deploying seismic networks, deep grasp of how to process/model seismic data, sharp understanding of tectonic processes and ability to run and draw inferences from geodynamic simulations.
I graduated with a PhD from the Research School of Earth Sciences (ANU) in 2014, after which I moved to the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi to work on a collaborative project with the University of Oxford. I then held a prestigious, independent Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Cambridge, which followed an equally prestigious NERC independent fellowship. After four years at the University of Cambridge, I moved to the University of Milano-Bicocca in 2021, and finally joined KFUPM in early 2023.

Educational Qualification

  • Ph.D., Earth Physics – Australian National University (Australia), 2014
  • M.S., Exploration Geophysics – University of Pisa (Italy), 2009
  • B.S., Earth Sciences – University of Cagliari (Italy), 2006

Research Interests

  • Active and passive seismic tomography
  • Structural and dynamic evolution of the Earth
  • Geodynamic simulations of lithospheric instabilities

Selected Publications

  • Pilia S. et al. (2023) Post-subduction tectonics induced by extension from a lithospheric drip. Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01201-7 
  • Volk O., White R. S., Pilia S., Green R. G., Maclennan J., Rawlinson N. (2021) Oceanic crustal flow in Iceland observed using seismic anisotropy. Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00702-7
  • Ali M. Y., Watts A. B., Searle M. P., Keats B. S., Pilia S. and Ambrose T. (2020) Geophysical imaging of ophiolite structure in the United Arab Emirates. Nature Communications. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16521-0
  • Pilia S., Jackson J., Hawkins R., Kaviani A. and Ali M. Y. (2020) The southern Zagros collisional orogen: new insights from transdimensional-trees inversion of seismic noise. Geophysical Research Letters. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL086258
  • Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Cayley R. A., Bodin T., Musgrave R., Reading A. M., Direen N. G., and Young M. K. (2015) Evidence of micro-continent entrainment during crustal accretion, Scientific Reports – Nature. doi:10.1038/srep08218

Extended Publications (+)

  • Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Hall R., Cornwell D.G., Gilligan A. and Tongkul F. (2023) Seismic signature of subduction termination from teleseismic P-and S-wave arrival-time tomography: The case of northern Borneo. Gondwana Research https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gr.2022.11.014
  • Ismaiel M., Ali M.Y., Pilia S., Watts A.B., Searle M.P. (2023) Moho topography and crustal properties in the UAE and northern Oman mountain belt from teleseismic receiver functions. Geophysical Journal International https://doi.org/10.1093/gji/ggad034
  • Linang H.T., Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Bacon C.A., Gilligan A., Cornwell D.G. and Tongkul F. (2022) Collision‐induced subduction polarity reversal explains the crustal structure of northern Borneo: New results from Virtual Deep Seismic Sounding (VDSS). Geophysical Research Letters https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GL099123
  • Bacon C., Rawlinson N., Pilia S., Gilligan A., Wehner D., Cornwell D. and Tongkul F. (2022) The signature of lithospheric anisotropy at post-subduction continental margins: new insight from XKS splitting analysis in northern Borneo. Geoph. Geosys. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GC010564
  • Geng M., Ali M.Y., Derek F., Pilia S., Bouzidi Y., Barkat B. (2022) Hormuz salt distribution in the United Arab Emirates: Implications for the location of hydrocarbon fields. Marine and Petroleum Geology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2022.105797
  • Geng M., Ali M.Y., Derek F., Pilia S., Bouzidi Y., Barkat B. (2022) Crustal structure of the United Arab Emirates and northern Oman Mountains from constrained 3D inversion of gravity and magnetic data: the Moho and basement surfaces. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2022.105223
  • Greenfield T., Gilligan A., Pilia S., Cornwell D., Tongkul F., Widiyantoro S., Rawlinson N. (2022) Post-subduction tectonics of Sabah, northern Borneo, inferred from surface wave tomography. Geophysical Research Letters.
  • Pilia S., Kaviani A., Searle M., Arroucau P., Ali M. Y. and Watts A. B. (2021) Crustal and mantle deformation inherited from obduction of the Semail ophiolite (Oman) and continental collision (Zagros). Tectonics. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020TC006644
  • Pilia S., Ali M. Y., Searle M. P., Watts A. B., Lu C and Thompson D. (2021) Crustal structure of the UAE-Oman mountain range and Arabian rifted passive margin: new constraints from active and passive seismic methods. Journal of Geophysical Research. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020JB021374
  • Núñez, D., Acosta-Hernández, J.A., Escalona-Alcázar F., Pilia S., Núñez-Cornú, Javier F. and Córdoba D. (2021) The Extended Continental Crust West of Islas Marías (Mexico). Frontiers in Earth Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2021.666272
  • Kaviani A., Mahmoodabadi M., Rümpker G., Pilia S., Nilfouroushan F., Moradi A., Tatar M. and Ali M. (2021) Mantle-flow diversion beneath the Iranian plateau induced by Zagros’ lithospheric keel. Scientific Reports – Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81541-9
  • Pilia S., Hu H., Ali M. , Rawlinson N. and Ruan A. (2020) Upper mantle structure of the northeastern Arabian Platform from teleseismic body wave tomography. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pepi.2020.106549.
  • Kaviani A., Paul A., Moradi A., Mai P. M, Pilia S., Boschi L., Rümpker G., Lu Y., Tang Z. and Sandvol E. (2020) Crustal and uppermost mantle shear-wave velocity structure beneath the Middle East from surface-wave tomography. Geophysical Journal International. https://doi.org/10.1093/gji/ggaa075.
  • Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Gillighan E. and Tongkul F. (2019) Deciphering the fate of plunging tectonic plates in Borneo, Eos,https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO123475.
  • Crowder E., Rawlinson N., Pilia S., G. Cornwell and Reading A. (2019) Transdimensional ambient noise tomography of Bass Strait reveals the sedimentary basin and deep crustal structure beneath a failed continental rift. Geophysical Journal International. https://doi.org/10.1093/gji/ggz057.
  • Rawlinson N., Davies D.R. and Pilia S. (2017) The mechanisms underpinning Cenozoic intraplate volcanism in eastern Australia: Insights from seismic tomography and geodynamic modeling. Geophysical Research Letters. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL074911
  • Pilia S., Arroucau P., Rawlinson N., Reading A. M. and Cayley R. A. (2016) Inherited crustal deformation along the East Gondwana margin revealed by seismic anisotropy tomography, Geophysical Research Letters. doi: 1002/2016GL071201
  • Rawlinson N., Pilia S., Young M., Salmon M. and Yang Y. (2016) Crust and upper mantle structure beneath southeast Australia from ambient noise and teleseismic tomography, Tectonophysics. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2015.11.034.
  • Pilia S., Ali M. Y., Watts A. B. and Searle M. P. (2015) UAE-Oman mountains give clues to oceanic crust and mantle rocks,  doi:10.1029/2015EO040937
  • Balfour N., Cummins P., Pilia S. and Love D. (2015) Localization of Intraplate Deformation through Fluid-assisted Faulting in the Lower-Crust: The Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Tectonophysics. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2015.05.014
  • Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Direen N., Reading A., Cayley R., Pryer L., Arroucau P., Duffett M. (2014) Linking mainland Australia and Tasmania using ambient noise tomography: implications for the tectonic evolution of the eastern Gondwana margin, Gondwana Research. doi:10.1016/j.gr.2014.09.014.
  • Pilia S., Rawlinson N., Direen N., Cummins P. and Balfour N. (2013) Structural controls on localized intraplate deformation and seismicity in southern Australia: insights from local earthquake tomography of the Flinders Ranges, Journal of Geophysical Research. doi: 10.1002/jgrb.50168.

Awards & Honors

  • 2018 – Marie Curie Independent fellowship (Among most competitive and prestigious European awards to support most promising scientists. Awarded for outstanding track record and high-impact research plans (€200k)
  • 2017 – NERC Independent fellowship (Award for most talented national and international researchers to undertake new innovation- and industry-oriented research (£430k)
  • 2012 – Best PhD project from Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA)
  • 2011 – Best young geophysicist in Australia from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
  • 2010 – International student PhD scholarship from Australian National University