Monday, 28 September 2015

Seismology, geodynamics and beautiful Copenhagen...by Rose Hen-Jones

Earlier this month, Newcastle University PhD student Rose headed to Denmark to attend the tenth elite PhD training course at the University of Copenhagen, on using Seismology and Geodynamics to quantify earth's internal processes. Rose tells us all about it...
Nyhavn, the beautiful 17th century waterfront of Copenhagen
Although the topic of my PhD concerns the development of a landslide monitoring system using electrical imaging, I wanted to learn more about seismic imaging methods, and was lucky enough to win a place on this course!
I was initially concerned that my research being heavily civil engineering-based I might have some trouble finding my feet, but the first day kicked off with a fantastic introduction to Geodynamics from Prof. Greg Houseman of Leeds University, and I found everything flooding back from my Geophysics undergraduate degree. The Seismology component of the course was taught by Prof. Rob van der Hilst from MIT, and began with the basic principles of elastic wave propagation. These were then used as the physical basis for seismic tomography applications.
Elastic wave equation - back to undergraduate maths! 

Although the course itself was based around lectures, these were incredibly dynamic and flexible, involving a lot of discussion depending on which topics were raised. Additionally, all of the attendees gave a very brief presentation on their own research, which was fascinating as it helped to showcase the application of what we were all there to learn more about.
The last afternoon was spent engaged in a debate, in which each of two teams had to defend a theory chosen at the start of the course, as well as to present a counter-argument for the other team's point of view. Having presented the evidence for "the lower crust is the strongest part of the continental lithosphere", we then had to witness the other team tear our poor theory to pieces, and then had half an hour in which to come up with a response. I'm not entirely sure who won in the end, but it was fantastic to see everyone come together in the final debate, and the fact of having various different perspectives was key in the development of a coherent argument.
The stunning interior of the Copenhagen Geological Museum
Although the University's Geophysics department is housed within the iconic Geocenter, we were delighted over the course of the week to be hosted in several amazing locations, including the Geological Museum, with the most stunning interior design and breathtaking collections, as well as the Agpalilik meteorite in the museum courtyard – a real treat for a bunch of geophysicists!

The Agpalilik meteorite in the sunshine
The course did indeed keep me very busy during my week in Copenhagen, but we did have some spare time, so I headed to Nyhavn on what happened luckily to be the most beautiful day – all in all not a bad way to spend a week!

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