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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Nicola De Paola

Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences
Member of the Durham X-ray Centre

Contact Dr Nicola De Paola (email at


2012 – present — Senior Lecturer in Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics, University of Durham, Manager of the Rock Mechanics Laboratory

2007 – 2012 — Lecturer in Structural Geology, University of Durham

2005 – 2007 — Post-doctoral position, GSG (Geologia Strutturale e Geofisica), Earth Science Department, University of Perugia

2005 — PhD Structural Geology, University of Durham University

2000 — Geology Degree (110/110, first class), University of Perugia (Italy).

Research Interests

DR. NICOLA DE PAOLA studies the structure, mechanics and transport properties of exhumed, active fault zones, by combining field, microstructural and rock mechanics experimental datasets to understand earthquake processes in the upper crust. He has recently established and is currently managing the Rock Mechanics Laboratory, in the Earth Sciences Department. He currently supervises 3 PhD students as lead supervisor and 5 PhD students as co-supervisor. 

Recent work has focused on the evolution of fault strength during earthquake propagation. Recent research collaborations with world leading rock mechanics experimentalists, include Dr. Dan Faulkner (Rock Deformation Laboratory, University of Liverpool), Prof. Toshi Shimamoto (China Earthquake Institute, Bejing), Prof. Giulio Di Toro (University of Manchester), Prof. Cristiano Collettini (INGV/Universita’ La Sapienza, Roma) and Dr. Takehiro Hirose (Deformation Laboratory, JAMSTEC, Kochi Core Centre).

Since May 2005, Nicola has published 24 articles in International Peer Reviewed Journals. At March 2017, Nicola’s papers have been cited 702 [970] times, with an average number of citations per paper = 30.52 [40.4]. His h-index is 15 [16]. Source: Web of Science and [Google Scholar – My Citations].

Recent and Current Grants

2015  CREEP: Complex RhEologies in Earth dynamics and industrial processes (£170519.92 from European Commission, Durham PI)

2015  NERC Capital Equipment Grant (HiFAST): High frequency acquisition system for the dynamic measurement of stress, strain and friction in laboratory-produced earthquakes (£173000.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council, Co-I)

2014 & 2015  Two Oil and Gas CDT PhD Studentships (£184000 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council, PI)

2014  Iapetus Consortium DTP PhD studentship (£81000 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council, Co-I) 

2013  Oil Industry Capital Equipment funding (£155000 from DONG, PI)

2012  Clair Sponsored Studentship (£140000.00 from BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd, Co-I)

2011  NERC Standard Grant: Fault lubrication during earthquale propagation in thermally unstable rocks (£566830 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council, PI)

2011  NERC PhD studnetship (£81000 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council, PI) 

2008  Oil Industry funded PhD studnetship (£79000.00 from Maersk Oil & Gas AS, PI)

Recent Invited Keynotes and Conferences

Invited Keynotes:

2016 – Geological Society of Italy (Societa’ Geologica Italiana) Annual Meeting: “Earthquakes and active tectonics: a multidisciplinary approach”, Naples (September, 2016).

2016 – Royal Society, Theo Murphy International Satellite Meeting: “Faulting, friction and weakening: from slow to fast motion (UK)”, London (April, 2016).

2015 – University of Utrecht, International rock mechanics workshop: “Modeling Fault Friction", Utrecht (September, 2015)

2015 – European Geosciences Union (EGU) Annual Meeting: “Fractures, mechanics and flow in tight reservoirs”, Vienna (April, 2015).

2014 – American Geophysical Union, (AGU) Fall Meeting: “Physical properties of earth materials: evolving rock structure”, San Francisco (December, 2014).

2012 – European Geosciences Union (EGU) Annual Meeting: “Thermo-mechanical coupling and physical properties of rocks: implications to natural hazards”, Vienna (April, 2012).

2010 – Geomechanics Workshop, University of Padova (Italy).

2010 – Gordon Research Conference: Rock Deformation, Tilton School (USA);

2010 – International Workshop: "Modern Trends in Geomechanics II", Stanford University, (USA).

2005 – Geological Association of Canada, GAC, Halifax (Canada).

2005 – Geological Society of America, GSA, Utah (USA).


Convened 2 sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, held in San Francisco (US) (2008, 2015).

Convened 3 sessions at the European Geosciences Union (EGU), General Assembly held in Vienna, Austria (2011, 2012, 2013).

Prizes, Awards and Indicators of esteem

2005 – RAMSAY MEDAL, UK Tectonic Studies Group, awarded for the best published paper by a postgraduate student in 2005.

2005  YOUNG AUTHOR’S AWARD, Journal of the Geological Society of London, awarded for the best paper by a researcher under the age of 30 that was published in the Journal of the Geological Society of London in 2005.

2005  FEARNSIDES PRIZE, Yorkshire Geological Society, awarded for excellence in published research, on basin inversion carried out by an individual under the age of 30.

2005 - Present – Acting peer reviewer for leading international journals including Science, Nature Geoscience, Nature Communications, Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters, Geology, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Structural Geology, Tectonophysics, Geofluids, Journal of the Geological Society of London, Terra Nova.

PhD Students Prizes:

2015 – Best postgraduate student talk to Dr. Rachael Bullock. Tectonics Studies Group (TSG) Annual Meeting, Edinburgh. 

2014 – Outstanding Student Paper Award – Tectonophysics awarded for oral contribution “Earthquake rupture in shallow, unconsolidated sediments” to Dr. Rachael Bullock. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (AGU).

Membership of Organisations and Societies

American Geophysical Union (AGU) member

European Geosciences Union (EGU) member

Tectonic Studies Group (TSG) member

Committee and Society Service

2009 – 2012 — Secretary of the Tectonic Studies Group (TSG). 

Research Groups

Department of Earth Sciences

Research Interests

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Collettini, C., Cardellini, C., Chiodini, G., De Paola, N., Holdsworth, R.E. & Smith, S.A.F. (2008). Fault weakening due to CO2 degassing in the Northern Apennines: short- and long-term processes. In The Internal Structure of Fault Zones: Implications for Mechanical and Fluid-Flow Properties. Wibberley, C.A.J., Kurz, W., Imber, J., Holdsworth, R.E. & Collettini, C. Geological Society of London. 299: 1-20.

Journal Article

  • Pozzi, Giacomo, De Paola, Nicola, Holdsworth, Robert E., Bowen, Leon, Nielsen, Stefan B. & Dempsey, Edward D. (2019). Coseismic ultramylonites: An investigation of nanoscale viscous flow and fault weakening during seismic slip. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 516: 164-175.
  • Snell, T, De Paola, N, van Hunen, J, Nielsen, S & Collettini, C (2019). Modelling fluid flow in complex natural fault zones: implications for natural and human-induced earthquake nucleation. Earth and Planetary Science Letters
  • Pozzi, G., De Paola, N., Nielsen, S.B., Holdsworth, R.E. & Bowen, L. (2018). A new interpretation for the nature and significance of mirror-like surfaces in experimental carbonate-hosted seismic faults. Geology 46(7): 583-586.
  • Tesei, T., Harbord, C. W. A., De Paola, N., Collettini, C. & Viti, C. (2018). Friction of Mineralogically Controlled Serpentinites and Implications for Fault Weakness. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 123(8): 6976-6991.
  • Harbord, Christopher W. A., Nielsen, Stefan B., De Paola, Nicola & Holdsworth, Robert E. (2017). Earthquake nucleation on rough faults. Geology 45(10): 931-934.
  • Corradetti, Amerigo, McCaffrey, Ken, De Paola, Nicola & Tavani, Stefano (2017). Evaluating roughness scaling properties of natural active fault surfaces by means of multi-view photogrammetry. Tectonophysics 717: 599-606.
  • Allen, M.B., Walters, R.J., Song, S.G., Saville, C., De Paola, N., Ford, J., Hu, Z.X. & Sun, W.L. (2017). Partitioning of oblique convergence coupled to the fault locking behavior of fold-and-thrust belts: evidence from the Qilian Shan, northeastern Tibetan Plateau. Tectonics 36(9): 1679-1698.
  • Sagi, D.A., De Paola, N., McCaffrey, K.J.W. & Holdsworth, R.E. (2016). Fault and fracture patterns in low porosity chalk and their potential influence on sub-surface fluid flow—A case study from Flamborough Head, UK. Tectonophysics 690(A): 35-51.
  • Bruttoa, F, Muto, F, Loreto, M F De Paola, N, Tripodi, V, Critelli, S & Facchin, L (2016). The Neogene-Quaternary geodynamic evolution of the central Calabrian Arc: A case study from the western Catanzaro Trough basin. Journal of Geodynamics 102: 95-114.
  • Bullock, R.J., De Paola, N. & Holdsworth, R.E. (2015). An experimental investigation into the role of phyllosilicate content on earthquake propagation during seismic slip in carbonate faults. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 120(5): 3187-3207.
  • De Paola, N., Holdsworth, R. E., Viti, C., Collettini, C. & Bullock, R. (2015). Can grain size sensitive flow lubricate faults during the initial stages of earthquake propagation? Earth and Planetary Science Letters 43: 48-58.
  • Bullock, Rachael J., De Paola, Nicola, Holdsworth, Robert E. & Trabucho-Alexandre, João (2014). Lithological controls on the deformation mechanisms operating within carbonate-hosted faults during the seismic cycle. Journal of Structural Geology 58: 22-42.
  • Balsamo, F., Aldega, L., De Paola, N., Faoro, I. & Storti, F. (2014). The signature and mechanics of earthquake ruptures along shallow creeping faults in poorly lithified sediments. Geology 42(5): 435-438.
  • De Paola, N. (2013). Nano-powder coating can make fault surfaces smooth and shiny: implications for fault mechanics? Geology 41(6): 719-720.
  • De Paola, N, Hirose, T, Mitchell, T, Di Toro, G, Viti, C & Shimamoto, T (2011). Fault lubrication and earthquake propagation in thermally unstable rocks. Geology 39(1): 35-38.
  • Di Toro, G., Han, R., Hirose, T., De Paola, N., Nielsen, N., Mizoguchi, K., Ferri, F., Cocco, M. & Shimamoto, T. (2011). Fault lubrication during earthquakes. Nature 471(7339): 494-498.
  • De Paola, N., Chiodini, G., Hirose, T., Cardellini, C., Caliro, S. & Shimamoto, T. (2011). The geochemical signature caused by earthquake propagation in carbonate-hosted faults. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 310(3-4): 225-232.
  • De Paola, N., Faulkner, D. R. & Collettini, C. (2009). Brittle versus ductile deformation as the main control on the transport properties of low-porosity anhydrite rocks. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth) 114: B06211.
  • Collettini, C., De Paola, N. & Faulkner, D. R. (2009). Insights on the geometry and mechanics of the Umbria–Marche earthquake (Central Italy) from the integration of field and laboratory data. Tectonophysics 476(1-2): 99-109.
  • De Paola, N., Collettini, C., Faulkner, D.R. & Trippetta, F. (2008). Fault zone architecture and deformation processes within evaporitic rocks in the upper crust. Tectonics 27(4).
  • De Paola, N., Holdsworth, Robert E. & Collettini, C. (2008). The internal structure of Dilational stepovers in regional transtension zones. International Geology Review 50(3): 291-304.
  • De Paola, N. , Collettini, C., Trippetta, F., Barchi, M.R. & Minelli, G. (2007). A mechanical model for complex fault patterns induced by evaporite dehydration and cyclic changes in fluid pressure. Journal of Structural Geology 29(10): 1573-1584.
  • Collettini, C., De Paola N. , Holdsworth, R.E. & Barchi, M.R. (2006). The development and behaviour of low angle normal faults during Cenozoic asymmetric extension in the Northern Apennines, Italy. Journal of Structural Geology 28: 333-352.
  • De Paola, N, Holdsworth, R.E, McCaffrey,K.J.W & Barchi, M.R. (2005). Partitioned transtension: an alternative to basin inversion models. Journal of Structural Geology 27(4): 607-625.
  • De Paola, N., Holdsworth, R.E. & McCaffrey, K.J.W. (2005). The influence of lithology and pre-existing structures on reservoir-scale faulting patterns in transtensional rift zones. Journal of the Geological Society 162(3): 471-480.

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