2013 Annual Report

Academic Programs

The strength of all the WHOI education programs is the close linkage with the WHOI research mission and projects, and we are very proud of the ways our students and postdocs contribute to WHOI research. For example, our Joint Program (JP) students were authors on 79 scientific papers in 2013. What is most encouraging about our programs is that participating in WHOI education and training programs generally leads to excellent professional opportunities following time spent here. Joint Program graduates and postdoc alums find positions, and most of the summer undergraduates we train continue in science and engineering graduate programs, including some in our joint graduate program with MIT. A recent trend is that more of our PhD alums are finding positions outside of academia than in the past, including biologists who choose to work for biotech firms; engineers for robotic companies and others for firms that analyze risks associated with hazards such as earthquakes, sea level rise and coastal storms.

Our JP students, postdocs and scientists participate in an important National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded climate change education project, led by the New England Aquarium and entitled National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). Students and postdocs participate in Study Circles that include social scientists who specialize in how people learn and retain information, as well as interpreters who engage the public at national science centers, zoos and aquariums. The role of the WHOI participants is to provide accurate information on climate change and its effects on the ocean and its ecosystems. They also receive training as to how to effectively deliver and present climate change and impacts information to public audiences, a skill that should help our scientists’ careers and help increase public knowledge of the ocean and its role in climate change.

The ways in which we communicate science are changing, and we are pleased that students in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program are leading the way. Last year, JP students formed the Broader Impacts Group (BIG), a student-run organization that is building networks of connections in the community and using those resources to share science with the public. BIG has convened workshops, hosted outside speakers, and supported a wide variety of outreach projects. They recently initiated a seminar series entitled, “Off the Charts” for graduate students at MIT and WHOI, who learn about professional and personal topics and choices in one lecture from people such as WHOI Director Susan Avery. BIG also sponsored “Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science”, a 4-month running exhibition at the Museum of Science, Boston. The project paired eight Boston and Cape Cod professional artists with ocean scientists from MIT and WHOI to develop novel methods of public engagement with oceanography. Their work was a visual dialogue exploring the broader impacts of science and the multi-faceted nature of research.

WHOI is currently leading a national ocean community diversity initiative (OceanOpportunities and on Facebook) that originated at a WHOI-hosted June, 2012, workshop supported by the Deerbrook Charitable Trust. Minority students, particularly African-, Hispanic-, and Native-Americans, are poorly represented in U.S. ocean science graduate programs and in careers that require an MS or Ph.D. in ocean science. As one of the OceanOpportunities activities, WHOI arranged for undergraduate STEM students from minority-serving institutions/programs to visit University of South Florida Department of Marine Science (undergraduate students from Xavier-Louisiana and Dillard), Scripps (students from California State colleges), and WHOI (students from Howard University) in spring and fall, 2013. The students met with faculty, academic administrators and graduate students to learn more about opportunities for summer undergraduate research at ocean science institutions, ocean science graduate programs and ocean science careers. We are learning that even a brief exposure to an ocean science institution stimulates interest in the ocean sciences—interest we hope will translate into more students and postdocs from underrepresented minorities.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-WHOI Joint Program awarded 8 masters’ and 25 doctoral degrees in ocean science and engineering. As of fall, 2013 JP enrollment was 125 students split between WHOI and MIT advisers, 56 percent of whom are women. Our Summer Student Fellow program for undergraduates (juniors) trained 31 students during summer 2013, representing 31 U.S. and international colleges and universities. WHOI averaged approximately 85 postdocs in residence during 2013.

James Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs & Dean

Last updated: July 11, 2014