From Bergen to California – a travelogue from Stanford University

Helene Meling Stemland is a PhD fellow in ARCEx WP4 who has been at the Stanford University geophysics department since Easter 2018. In this travelogue she describes her PhD life overseas. 


I feel very lucky I get to stay at one of the top universities in the world for 9 months, working with many interesting people.

My doctoral project is focusing on environmental friendly seismic analysis in the ice-covered Arctic. My main focus while I am here at Stanford is to look at the rock physics properties and seismic signatures of freezing and thawing materials. This is something we also plan to study in the field through the Arctic Geophysical Laboratory at Svalbard next year. Stanford has some of the best experts within the field of rock physics, as well as many people working on ice-related projects. In addition, Stanford’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley is reflected by a high frequency of interesting workshops and seminars to participate in.

In addition to a good working environment, Stanford is also a great place to live. Coming from rainy Bergen, it is nice to wake up every morning to yet another day of California sun. At the time of writing, we have not seen rain for over two months, but despite how dry the area is, Stanford is surprisingly green. Stanford University has just over 16 000 students (including bachelor, master and PhD students), but everything is located at one large and beautiful campus with trees and flowers everywhere. A bike is a must-have on campus, and hiking trails are located just a few minutes away. California in general has many interesting places to visit, especially for a geoscientist. From the breath taking mountains of Yosemite, to the steep cliffs of Big Sur, and of course the San Andreas Fault, which frequently lead to small earthquakes. The proximity to San Francisco is nothing to complain about either.

Leaving life in Norway to do research in another country may be challenging, but is still something I would recommend for anyone who gets the chance. Coming to a completely new research environment is an invaluable experience. I look forward to the upcoming months at Stanford, and encourage any ARCEx member finding themselves in Northern California to stop by Stanford to say hi!