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Mr Neil Wilkins

Mr Neil Wilkins

Mr Neil Wilkins

Geology (PhD)

Area of research

Optimising array methodologies for forensic, industrial and global seismology


Forensic seismology is the application of seismological techniques to the analysis and identification of events that are suspected of being related to illegal activity, predominately the testing of nuclear warheads. My research project is a NERC CASE studentship in collaboration with AWE Blacknest, one of the organisations responsible for the enforcement of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Monitoring the seismic waves originating from suspicious events is one of the most important parts of verifying whether or not the event was the result of a nuclear explosion. However, discerning such events from natural and non-nuclear sources of seismicity requires detailed measurement of the seismic waveform. It is thus necessary to achieve a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in the seismic data that is to be analysed.

Over half of the Primary seismic stations of the International Monitoring System (IMS) of the CTBT organisation (CTBTO) are small-aperture seismic arrays. The SNR of the data from these arrays can be improved by stacking the seismograms from each element in the array. The first part of my project focussed on developing stacking techniques to achieve improved SNRs on such small-aperture seismic arrays.

I have also developed code to calculate corrections to the observed slowness and azimuth of the seismic wavefield arriving at an array. Applying these corrections to IMS Primary seismic arrays improves the SNR of the stack. I am invesigating how this SNR improvement affects both the detection of suspicious events, and the calculation of seismic discriminants, in particular for the sequence of nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.


I am a postgraduate student interested in seismology, particularly focussed on array processing techniques, and applying these to forensic seismology and the deep Earth. I work a lot in the Python programming language.

My background is in Physics, and I graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2014 with an MSci in Natural Sciences (Physics).


I have demonstrated for the following courses:


Seismology (4th Years)

Physics for Earth Sciences (1st Years)

Imaging and Mapping the Earth (2nd Years)

Atmospheric Processes (2nd Years)

Independent Development of Environmental Geoscience Skills (Matlab) (2nd Years)


  • Seismology
  • forensic seismology
  • global seismology
  • seismic array processing



School of Earth Sciences

Postgraduate students

Research groups

Research themes

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