Ohio State nav bar

TRONDBUSS program supports Ohio State student research in Norway

March 27, 2024

TRONDBUSS program supports Ohio State student research in Norway


For Grace Gutiérrez, studying abroad wasn’t just an opportunity to experience a new country. It was a chance to conduct her own experiment with distinguished educators and her peers. 

An undergraduate researcher in plant ecology, Gutiérrez spent four months in 2023 in Trondheim, Norway as part of the TRONDBUSS program, a bilateral U.S.-Norway international education initiative between the Department of Molecular Genetics at Ohio State and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The program, which was started by Professor Patrice Hamel and his Norwegian colleagues in 2013, supports independent research experiences in Norway. The research abroad experience is typically a three-month program, but since Gutiérrez is a European citizen, she was able to stay an extra month to expand on her experiment.

“We looked at how warming and the presence of neighboring vegetation affect growth of plant seedlings,” she said. “As a field ecologist, you really need to have your whole field season open for the growing of the plants and have time on the back end to be able to process your samples.”

Gutiérrez added that her experiment was on the same field site used by other researchers from her NTNU research lab. This allowed her to work on her research and expand her skillset by assisting other scientists with their experiments. 



“That was super critical for bonding and becoming friends with everyone. It felt so collegial,” she said. “That was honestly the best week of my whole year. Just setting up field sites with our research team.”

Hamel has worked for more than a decade on the TRONDBUSS program and has recently helped expand the opportunities for students, specifically financially. The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HKDIR) offered financial support to Ohio State students going to Norway through a grant awarded to TRONDBUSS in 2019. 

“It is sometimes very difficult for undergraduate students in biological sciences to find significant independent and individual research experiences. In particular, international research experience is very rare because of the logistics, and cost of travel and living while abroad,” he said. “I wanted to help students have access to these initiatives and create opportunities for them.”

Thanks to HKDIR, support toward in-country living expenses ($5,000) is provided to each selected student. This year, Ohio State expects to send several students to Norway and France. Since its inception, the TRONDBUSS program has provided experiences to 68 students from both the U.S. and Norway. 

Students who are accepted to the program can choose a six-month window between May and October in which to complete their research. While degree-seeking undergraduate students usually participate in the summer, there is flexibility for graduated undergraduate students or students who are taking a gap year. 

“We look at students who have a major, minor or specialization in the biological sciences,” Hamel said when discussing the typical candidate for the program. “This is across the entire university; it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the College of Arts and Sciences.” For instance, Gutiérrez is a Forest Ecosystem Science major from CFAES.

Hamel added that prospective students for the TRONDBUSS research opportunity program should also have some experience in either a lab, a class, or the field.

Gutiérrez is currently finalizing the manuscript resulting from this project, which will be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal. She was not only grateful for the freedom of conducting independent research but also for the ability to explore Norway. 


“It was nice to have a smaller program, where it was just three (Ohio State) students. The program coordinators were wonderful. They organized a trip to the north of Norway, which is right on the Arctic Circle,” she said. “We also went on a trip to central coastal Norway, a few hours from Trondheim. We hiked up the mountain named Innerdalstårnet, all the way to the peak, and there was a lake there. I had a lot of time to explore.”

Hamel said the 2023 class of students adapted “very well” to their surroundings in Norway and added he is excited for the next round of students to experience what TRONDBUSS has to offer. 

“It was very clear that this experience had a huge impact on the students’ personal growth and the confidence that they built in themselves,” Hamel said when discussing the feedback he received from Ohio State’s 2023 TRONDBUSS class. “I think the list of benefits from this trip are endless.”

News Filters: