Richard Allen was born in England and educated at Cambridge University where he earned his BA degree. He moved to the US to complete his PhD at Princeton University and then traversed the continent to the more earthquake-active west coast where he conducted his Postdoctoral studeis at Caltech.
Allen's research interests include 3D imaging of active tectonic processes within the Earth. These include plumes of hot rock upwelling beneath volcanoes and cold carpet-like layers dragging the Pacific floor down beneath North America. He is also interested in earthquake processes and hazards. One active area of interest is earthquake early warning systems which rapidly detect earthquakes and warn of forthcoming ground shaking.
In addition to being a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, Allen is also the Director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory (BSL). BSL conducts research into earth structure and dynamics, natural hazards, and hazard mitigation. BSL also provides real-time earthquake information to Federal, State and Local governments, private institutions and the public.