This post is co-authored by Hella and Aleksi both PhD students at UiB. Hella is currently visiting at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) for the whole spring while Aleksi just got a glimpse of the work and life around the NYC.
Travelling to a different country always broadens your mind. Meeting new people from different cultural backgrounds, experiencing new surroundings, tasting exotic food – all our senses are challenged to help us see our world through different eyes.
Working in a different country, for weeks, months or even years, is similar to this experience if not more extreme, as it forces us to really open ourselves to the new environment we are living in. This is especially true for us scientists, who depend on extensive communication and intensive discussion in our slightly megalomaniac ambition to explain the whole world on a few pages of paper.
Living abroad from our home University for a while, we’d like to give you a little insight into the scientific world here in New York. Even though Norway and the USA seem similar in many aspects, dipping into a new scientific environment, not to mention the exciting life in this huge city, literally opens our minds.
The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) is a large research institute focussing on all aspects of Earth Science. It is located just outside New York City, a 30 minutes bus ride from Morningside, the Columbia University main campus. It is maybe best known for the research on Palaeoclimate (Wally Broecker!), but the research topics at LDEO range from seismology to climate predictions. We would like to describe some of the possibilities LDEO offer young scientists and the aspects of its research culture which could be useful to all research institutes (or life in general).
One of the things, which we noticed immediately, is the well-known (American) openness of people, their commitment to their work, and in particular also their interest in other peoples work. The last point often turns out to be very valuable in many senses. Firstly it creates new, often cross-disciplinary conversations, as everyone is willing to hear about each other’s research. As always, cross-disciplinary explanations require very careful articulation and as we all know, explaining your own research to others requires careful thinking. This is why these discussions often turn out to be most useful also for the one explaining. Furthermore, everyone knows quite a lot about the research of their colleagues, so it is easy for visiting scientist to create new contacts. Although the first person that you talk to might not know the answer to some upcoming question, he or she almost certainly knows someone who does. Then it is just a matter of walking to that person’s office and starting the discussion! Without this interest in others work, the discussion might not take place, although the correct person might sit in the same building, simply because you never went to the seminar to find out. So people, listen to your colleagues and tell them what you are doing! Be open about new people and you might end up starting something new with someone you never thought you could be working with.
(Hella) My experiences from working with the cosmo group of the LDEO has indeed been very good until now! I met so many open-minded, welcoming and interesting people that are eager to share their knowledge with me, that I am very happy to have the opportunity to work with them during my PhD. The lab is run professionally, and I learned so much during the past months; coming from a more geographical background, my geochemical understanding in fact multiplied tenfold. Communication here in the USA is extraordinarily extensive, and even though it might not always pivot around genuine scientific topics, it often opens the doors and that way is procreative for both working and private life.
We wish we could take a little bit of this liability of easygoingness to Norway. Because science, and we think also life in general, has so much to win and so nothing to lose by telling what you think and listening to what others have to say.
At the end some words about the science! As mentioned Hella has been working with the cosmo group at LDEO, so see below to find out more about their methods and the lab itself!
The cosmogenic-nuclide exposure dating laboratory at LDEO is considered the world’s leading facility for exposure dating of rock surfaces. If you want to know more, check out http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/cosmo, there is also a really cool video (originally shown in the American Museum of Natural history!) in which the PI of the Lab, Prof. Joerg Schaefer, explains awesomely how we can use cosmo dating for glacier and climate reconstructions.