GFZ German research centre for geo sciences

Prof. Dr. Onno Oncken

Prof. Dr. Onno Oncken
Building E, Room 424 (Büro)
14473 Potsdam

Function and Responsibilities:

Guest scientist, former head of section 4.1 " Lithosphere Dynamics"

Retired Professor for "Dynamics of the Earth's Crust" at the Institut for Geological Sciences of the Freie Universität Berlin

Research Interests:

  • Tectonics of convergent plate margins and orogens
  • Earthquakes and mountain building
  • Deformation analysis
  • Analogue modelling


  • 1980-1982 PhD student at Earth Sciences Department, Cologne University
  • 1982-1983 Post-Doc at department of Earth Sciences at Münster University
  • 1983 Assistant professor for Structural Geology at the Geological-Paleontological Institute in Frankfurt
  • 1989 Associate professor for Structural Geology at the Institute for Geology in Würzburg
  • since 1992 Head of section at the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam
  • since 1994 Full professor for 'Dynamics of the Earth's Crust' at the Earth Sciences Department of the Free University of Berlin in conjunction with the position at the GFZ
  • 2003-2018 Director Department "Geodynamics and Geomaterials" at GFZ
  • 2004-2020 Program speaker of GFZ’s research program
  • 2007-2008 Guest professor (Moore Scholar) at Caltech/Pasadena
  • 2014-2015 Guest professor (Wiess Professor) at Rice University, Houston
  • Fall 2018 Guest professor at Sorbonne University, Paris
  • 2021 retired as head of section at GFZ Potsdam


  • 1988 Habilitation for Geology in Frankfurt
  • 1982 Dissertation in Cologne
  • 1980 Diploma in Geology at Cologne University


Research Boards and Committees:

  • 1993-1999 Vice-chairman of the DFG-priority program 'Orogenic processes - their quantification and simulation' by the German Science foundation
  • 1994-1997 Project leader of the national German reflection seismic program (DEKORP; BMBF)
  • 1997-2004 Speaker of the collaborative research program 'Deformation processes in the Andes' (funded by the German Science foundation)
  • Principal investigator in several coordinated national and international projects
    • 1998-2003 TRANSALP
    • former ILP-project COILS, Committee On Interdisciplinary Lithospheric Surveys
    • 2003-2008 project TIPTEQ on megathrust earthquakes in Chile
    • 2003-2008 project CSAG on system analysis of Earth surface processes
  • 1997-2004 Vice president of the Geologische Vereinigung
  • 1998-2004 member of review committee of the Alexander v. Humboldt foundation
  • 2001-2003 member of editorial board of GEOLOGY
  • 2003-2014 European Editor of TECTONICS
  • member of council of several research programs
    • 2001-2008 Dead Sea Center of the Minerva-Foundation
    • 2002-2006 member of council of World Stress Map Project
    • 2003-2014 chairman of council of Humboldt research centre of Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciencess
    • 2015 member of council of CIGIDEN, Chile’s National Center for Integrated Natural Disaster Management
  • 2004-2012 member of review board on Earth Sciences of German Science Foundation
  • 2004-2021 Speaker of Helmholtz research programme ‘The changing Earth’ at GFZ Potsdam
  • 2008-2013 member of Excellence Council of Free University Berlin
  • 2010-2014 member of Think Tank of Helmholtz Association
  • 2013-2018 member of board of Collaborative Research Center ‘Scaling Cascades’ at Freie Universität Berlin
  • 2016-2021 Member of DFG-Grants Committee for on Collaborative Research Centers
  • 2019-2022 Speaker of working group of national academy Leopoldina for Report on future of Earth System Science
  • since 2022 Secretary of class 1 of national academy Leopoldina Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Engineering


  • 1980-1982 PhD-fellowship of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation
  • 1982-1983 Postdoc Fellowship of the Thyssen Foundation
  • 1987 Hermann Credner-Award of the German Geological Society
  • 1998 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Award of the German Science Foundation
  • 1999 Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences
  • 2001 Member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences
  • 2002 Member of Leopoldina Academy
  • 2006 Member of Academia Europaea
  • 2007-2008 Moore Scholar at Caltech, Pasadena, USA
  • 2014-2015 Wiess visiting professor, Rice University, Houston
  • 2015 Gustav Steinmann Medal of DGGV
  • 2021 Fellow, American Geophysical Union

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