The Seismo-gram

Issue FIVE: 5 APRIL 2018

View this in your Web Browser





Students in Charge: Inside a conference known to shoo professors out of the room 

The 6th Annual Seismology Student Workshop (SSW) was held March 14-16 at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, sponsored by SSA and Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. We spoke to University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Zach Eilon, an organizer of the first workshop, and current organizer Kira Olsen of Lamont-Doherty to find out more about the country’s only student-run seismology conference.

Q: How did SSW get started?

Zach Eilon: When we were both grad students at Lamont-Doherty, I was talking with Ge Jin (now at Conoco Phillips) about the possibility of having a workshop for just students. We wrote a grant and got a small amount of funding—maybe like $600—and we reached out to networks of graduate students that we knew from meetings like AGU and from department visits.

From the very beginning we had the idea that this would be something that would be student-run and student-exclusive. It’s a very different experience to engage in science with your peers and to present science to your peers, instead of thinking, “there’s a big name sitting at the back of the room and they’re critiquing my work and I’m afraid of how I’m coming across.” In the first couple of years we had some [professors] sneak in the back, and we had to shoo them out.

Q: How has the workshop changed over the years?

Zach Eilon: In the beginning it was mostly structural seismologists and people interested in shallow earth imaging, but that was mostly because of the networks of people that we already knew. It has become much more diverse now. 

Kira Olsen: As the workshop has grown over the past five years the research subdisciplines represented have really grown as well. We have attendees from institutions across the country and abroad and people have shared their research in seismic imaging, rock mechanics, anisotropy studies, inverse techniques, non-traditional seismic sources and more. Last year we added a discussion session on career and professional development opportunities.

Q: What’s different about this workshop compared to other professional meetings?

Kira Olsen: We’ve set up the workshop around longer, 25-minute talks, and we ask everyone to dedicate a good portion of their presentation to introducing and walking through the methods they use. Being in the student environment of SSW means you’re probably not the only one in the room who doesn’t already know how to perform a certain kind of analysis. The chance to hear from another student who will actually break down the nitty gritty steps of how they applied a method and tell you, “here’s what worked, here’s what I wasted a bunch of time on and didn’t pan out,” can be really valuable in grasping how you might be able to apply those methods to your own research.

Zach Eilon: This conference is different in that most of the time that you encounter other scientists is through reading their papers or meeting them at conferences … in all those encounters what you’re really seeing is the end product, or the thing that they were willing to share with you at the end. This is of limited use to graduate students, who are for the first time encountering the really difficult process of doing research.

Q: Is the workshop meant for late-stage Ph.D.s only?

Kira Olsen: The workshop has a lot to offer students at any stage in their graduate career. In my first year of graduate school, I got a lot out of attending and having my eyes opened to the range of projects students around the country were working on. More senior Ph.D. students can take more of a leadership role in discussions, and bounce future research and collaboration ideas off of peers. It’s great when someone attends early on in their Ph.D. and then comes back a few years later and can share how their research has progressed.

Zach Eilon: I think it would be very helpful for first-year students to meet people, swap stories, learn about the possibilities for study and hopefully be inspired by older students producing what is really impressive research.

Q: What are some of the benefits of attending SSW?

Kira Olsen: We’ve found it really rewarding to have a student-led environment in which to get to know our peers. We will likely be collaborating with each other in the decades to come, so it’s great to form some of those connections while we’re still in school. People have also commented on how it’s inspiring to be exposed to the high-level research our peers are doing at other institutions and say that it’s great to get to hear about other experiences students have had with various short courses and internships.

Zach Eilon: One of the great things that has come out of the workshop over the years is the personal connections it has forged. Right now I’ve written two grants and organized two conferences with people I met and know through the Seismology Student Workshop. Everyone is there [at SSW] because they are passionate about seismology and want to learn more about it, but also it has a pretty informal and easy-going atmosphere. I think it’s one of the most valuable things one can do as a graduate student.

Congrats, Global Travel Grant Winners!

SSA’s new Global Travel Grant Program provides financial assistance to SSA student members attending a workshop, a small domestic scientific meeting or an international scientific meeting.  



Rachel Hatch, Meredith Kraner, Heather McFarlin and Nadine Reitman are the first recipients of a new student travel program established by the Society’s Board of Directors late last year. Part of SSA’s effort to support the development of careers in seismology and earthquake science, the grants ranged from $500 - $2,000 for travel before October 2018.

Rachel Hatch, from the University of Nevada, Reno, will attend the Banff 2018 International Induced Seismicity Workshop in Alberta, Canada. She hopes to use the workshop to draw upon the parallels between induced seismology and her current research on the Walker Lake tectonic region. 

Fellow University of Nevada, Reno student Meredith Kraner will use her grant to attend the 2018 Southern California Earthquake Center Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, California. Kraner aims to discover new tools and approaches that she can apply to her own research, as well as interact and build relationships with leading researchers. 

University of South Florida student Heather McFarlin will travel to Naples, Italy for the Cities on Volcanoes 10 meeting, which brings together the volcanology community, emergency officials and civic leaders. She hopes to learn more about the crisis and risk assessment procedures associated with volcanic crises and to share seismic data about an understudied volcano in the central Andes. 

Like Kraner, Nadine Reitman – currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder – will attend the 2018 Southern California Earthquake Center Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, California. Reitman will be sharing her dissertation research on the strike-slip fault systems in Death Valley and the northeastern California Shear Zone with scientists who focus on California tectonics. 

More information on the program can be found here.

How to Make the Most of the Annual Meeting

We asked a few of our SSA friends for advice on navigating the Annual Meeting. Read on for tips to make the most of your time in Miami next month. 


#1) Ask a question! This is science, and it will only expand and evolve if we question, clarify, test and prod each other. 

#2) Like a talk? Tell the person later at a break that you were interested. It’s a great opening salvo for more discussion and personal connections.—Katherine Scharer

Building my schedule well in advance helped me make the best of my time and allowed me to not miss out on events such as the mentoring breakfast and early career reception. The SSA mobile app was a really useful tool for that. —Maeva Pourpoint

One tip for new members would be to review the schedule and plan out where you want to be and when, because with concurrent sessions it can be easy get captivated in a particular session and miss another talk you wanted to see. At the same time, try to avoid hopping between sessions too much; it’s a delicate balance! —Jeff Bayless

Don’t be shy. Tell people what you would like to do, and ask for advice. The seismology community is awesome. Senior scientists and junior colleagues are genuinely helpful. I know the intrinsic insecurity of PhD students or even postdocs makes a lot of us avoid interactions with senior scientists so that they won’t find out how naive we are. But I personally never felt judged.—Wenyuan Fan

I try to interact with experts in the fields that my home institution does not have expertise in. The variety of activities other than the scientific sessions, e.g., various receptions, workshops, lunches and dinners, also provide invaluable opportunities to meet people.

Given that SSA covers a great breadth of topics, I also enjoy going to sessions of the fields that I am relatively new to, in addition to the ones related to my own research. It helps broaden my general understanding of and beyond seismology and guide my future research direction.—Sunyoung Park

Go to as many events as possible. SSA isn't a 20,000 person conference, it's a concentrated group of several hundred specialists in seismology/earthquake studies. That makes it an excellent place to meet people who are relevant to your work - and not just other students (though that is valuable too!). You have the opportunity to interact with people in your specific field at all levels of their careers. Events like receptions, workshops and field trips are even smaller subsets of SSA attendees, making it even easier to have meaningful interactions with people. A reception might be a casual environment to ask a question you had from a talk you saw that day. Someone you sit next to at a workshop might talk to you about their work in a way that gives you a fresh perspective on your own. —Tiegan Hobbs

Talk to people as much as possible. The communication with other members of the community gives you great feedback for your work and yourself personally. Particularly valuable is the communication with veterans of the community. They already did what we as young scientists want to do, and they can give you hints to avoid pitfalls in your career.—Gregor Schweppe

My number one piece of advice would be for students and early-career members to go ahead and approach the researchers who are doing work that interests them, and engage them in conversation. Poster sessions are an ideal place to do this. Students will find that most people are truly approachable and interested in an exchange of ideas. This is a great way for students and others to get important feedback on their own work, and learn more about what others in the field are doing. It’s also a great way to get on the radar screen of more senior researchers who could be postdoc advisors and colleagues in the future.

Another piece of advice I’d give is to attend at least one session in a field quite distinct from their own. It’s a great way to broaden one’s horizons, and who knows—it could give them ideas for their own research, or open up a whole new field for them.—David D. Oglesby


It's not too late to register for the 2018 Seismology of the Americas Conference, but hurry--pre-registration rates are only available until tomorrow, 6 April 2018. For more information, visit

Have a burning career-related question or an idea for an article for a future issue? Drop us a line at and be on the lookout for the next issue in June! 

400 Evelyn Avenue, Suite 201
Albany, California 94706-1375
United States

Call us: 510-525-5474

If you would like to unsubscribe click here.