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Semester at WHOI

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is offering a semester-long, tuition-supported program for advanced undergraduates (juniors or seniors) majoring in science, engineering, or mathematics that features a significant, for-credit research experience. The Semester At WHOI (SAW) program is particularly well-suited for students who are planning to obtain an advanced degree in ocean sciences, ocean engineering, or related fields in the geosciences. In addition to the research project overseen by a WHOI scientist or engineer, students will also have the opportunity to take one or two ocean science courses designed specifically for this program and/or choose from a small number of graduate courses that are also offered for undergraduate credit. The combination of the research project and course work will provide a full semester of credit transferable back to the student's home institution.

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WHOI at a glance

WHOI is an independent, non-profit research and education institution located on Cape Cod (Massachusetts) about 70 miles south of Boston and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). WHOI’s leadership in ocean science and engineering has resulted in a long line of notable discoveries and advancements in knowledge of the ocean. WHOI research ranges from studies of the distribution and role of microbes in the marine environment, to dynamics of ocean currents and ocean mixing, to the discovery of life in the deep ocean near hydrothermal vents, to a deeper understanding of the nature and impacts of hydrocarbons in the ocean. WHOI is recognized as a world leader for developing revolutionary new tools and techniques to study the ocean, including advanced human-occupied and autonomous vehicles.

In addition to scientific research and technical innovation, education has been a critical part of WHOI’s mission for many decades. Programs include the MIT-WHOI joint graduate program in ocean science and ocean engineering with 125 students in residence; NSF- and privately-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program involving 30 undergraduates each summer; and a postdoctoral program with 80-100 postdocs in residence at any given time.  

Around Woods Hole

WHOI is located in the village of Woods Hole, Mass. Both Woods Hole and nearby Falmouth are villages in the town of Falmouth and are located just a few miles apart. Both are resort areas in the summer, although both have the look and feel of small-town New England during the off-season from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Woods Hole is truly a “science village”—in addition to WHOI, Woods Hole is home to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Sea Education Association (SEA), the Northeast Fisheries Science Center of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Woods Hole Research Center, and a major laboratory of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).


A rolling application process will be used for the Fall 2015 program. Acceptance decisions will be made approximately 3 weeks after applications and supporting materials are received. Applications will be accepted until April 3, 2015, or until the quota is filled.

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SAW tuition is $20,000 to be paid prior to enrollment, with a $500 deposit required to hold a position in the program to be paid within three weeks of acceptance into the program. 

A limited amount of tuition aid is available. Tuition awards will be based on the amount of non-government tuition aid the student receives at their home institution.


WHOI housing units are located on both Quissett and Village campuses, and are furnished and equipped with kitchen appliances and utensils. Students are expected to provide their own meals, although breakfast and lunch are available for purchase in the Quissett Campus cafeteria on work days. Woods Hole village also has many coffee shops and restaurants, as well as a large cafeteria at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Housing costs are $830 per person per month for a shared bedroom with 2 beds per room. Utilities, cable TV, and Internet access are included in the rent.


Access to a car and/or a bicycle is helpful. WHOI provides shuttle bus service within the campus and limited bus service to local shopping centers is available, as well as regular bus service to/from Boston and Boston’s Logan International Airport are available and convenient. WHOI also provides a weekly grocery shuttle to local supermarkets for students.

Key Dates

Dates below are projections and may be adjusted when WHOI publishes the final 2015/2016 academic calendar.

  • September 8, 2015: Registration and orientation
  • September 9, 2015: First day of classes
  • November 11, 2015: Veterans Day holiday
  • November 26-27, 2015: Thanksgiving break
  • December 10, 2015: Last day of classes
  • December 14-18, 2015: Week of final exams

Program Management, Oversight

WHOI has continuously hosted undergraduates for summer research experiences since 1958 and has continuously managed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program currently exceeding 30 students each summer since 1989 using financial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other sources. WHOI’s Academic Programs Office includes a full-time Dean, part-time Associate Dean, a full-time registrar, full-time housing coordinator and a half-time coordinator for the SAW program. The program coordinator has training and experience in ocean science, and with education programs at the K-12 and undergraduate level, including WHOI’s summer REU program. WHOI scientists and engineers who are potential laboratory hosts for the students in this program all have prior experience hosting REU students in their laboratories.

For more information, contact education@whoi.edu and reference “Semester at WHOI.

Last updated: May 4, 2015