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Decoding Earth’s Instability

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Cansu Culha. Photo courtesy of Cansu Culha

Photo courtesy of Cansu Culha

Cansu Culha, PhD ’22 (geophysics), credits her childhood experience living near the epicenter of a 7.4-magnitude earthquake with inspiring her deep respect for the planet’s grandeur and curiosity about its unseen forces—a passion she has pursued through both science and art.

With support from the William R. Normark Research Fellowship, Culha now spends her days using multiphase fluid dynamics to decode Earth’s instability—especially how and why magma begins to rise and lead to volcanic eruptions. Outside of research, Culha investigates creative ways to communicate scientific discoveries through ArtSCI, an initiative she co-founded to bridge the divide between the scientific community and the general public.

“I’m looking at the flow of fluids, how solids are interacting with liquid,” she says. “The swirls and spherical bodies of magma trapped in host magma that has been peacefully resting in a chamber create beautiful patterns.” Her work reveals not only beauty, but also insights about the planet’s inner workings and what triggers a dormant volcano to suddenly awaken, she explains. “I get to unravel the meaning behind these patterns.”