12.758 Course Description

Instructor: Michael Spall

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The objective of this course is to create a forum for the reading, discussion and understanding of some of the fundamental papers in physical oceanography. The course will cover 2 main themes with four weeks spent on each area.  Several individual papers will be covered over the final three weeks of the course Primary topics for this semester are the Southern Ocean and the ocean's role in climate. Within each topic, the selection of papers will highlight key advances or new ideas with a balance of theoretical and observational papers.


The class will meet once a week, for one and a half hours, to discuss the selected paper (papers if short). The paper's content will be presented to the class by one pre-assigned student (on a rotational basis).  The setting is very informal and group discussion is expected throughout.  The presentation should address the technical aspects of the paper (what, why, how it was done) as well as the implications of the results and the structure and clarity of the paper.  All students are expected to read the paper in question prior to class and come with questions.  The presenting student is expected to read one or more related papers. He/She is also welcome/encouraged to seek the help of the instructor, other faculty members, or the authors of the paper for clarification.  The discussion should end with approximately 15 minutes addressing how this paper has influenced the field since its publication, maybe by way of subsequent papers addressing the same subject, or through the introduction of a new idea or technique that has had broader influence.


The primary goal of this course is to provide a complementary perspective on some of the fundamental problems in our field by considering some of the individual works which, when pieced together, contribute to the more cohesive description of how the ocean works. The `discussion format' of the class  is meant to encourage students to consider the many different aspects  of the work in question including motivation, approach utilized, and implications for the broader context. The course is alsointended to help students develop basic analytical and critical skills in paper reading and, therefore, writing. Finally, students will benefit from the practice in synthesizing information and making oral presentations.


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Last updated February 5, 2013
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