One of SoMAS’ paramount objectives is to educate and train students to become the next generation of marine and atmospheric scientists, environmental resource managers, and citizens who possess a fundamental grasp of environmental issues and the choices that society faces in handling these issues.
The first undergraduate degree offered through SoMAS was a minor in marine sciences established in 1988. In 1992, an Oceanography and Environmental Studies track was established in the Multidisciplinary Studies undergraduate degree program. Also in that year, the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC) offered its first undergraduate major, as the University’s Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres (ITPA) was transferred to MSRC, bringing with it the Atmospheric Sciences/Meteorology BS degree program. Over time, other undergraduate degree programs followed: a BA in Environmental Studies (2001) and a BS in Marine Biology and a BS in Marine Vertebrate Biology (both in 2005). The Environmental Studies major is designed for students anticipating a non-science career but one with a strong environmental bent, e.g., environmental journalism. The Marine Biology and Marine Vertebrate Biology degrees prepare students for a career in the sciences or environmental management. From May 1992 through December 2008, 174 students have graduated from SoMAS with an undergraduate degree.
MSRC’s first graduate degree program, the Marine Environmental Studies Program (MESP), was authorized in April 1970 and produced its first graduate in May 1971. The MESP program was a Masters of Science program designed for practicing professionals and recent college graduates with varied academic backgrounds. Its curriculum offered a strongly interdisciplinary examination of the diverse factors affecting the marine environment and was designed to prepare students for careers in the then-rapidly expanding fields of coastal management, environmental monitoring and protection and resource management. During the 1975-76 academic year, MSRC conducted an internal review of the MESP program. As a result of this review, the program name was changed to “Marine Environmental Sciences Program” and the program’s focus was shifted more towards hard science, with somewhat less emphasis being given to management and specific environmental problem-solving.
In April 1978, the Board of Trustees of the New York State Education Department approved MSRC’s Ph.D. program in coastal oceanography. The following September, the program was approved by New York Governor Hugh Carey. The Ph.D. program graduated its first two students in December, 1981.
In 2007, as MSRC was renamed the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, our graduate programs were re-titled to more properly reflect the unified educational experience within the school that is offered to both marine and atmospheric science students. At present, SoMAS offers both MS and Ph.D. degrees in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, with concentrations in either the marine or atmospheric sciences.
Since 1971, SoMAS graduate programs have produced 697 graduates; 574 received a MS degree, 184 received a Ph.D. and 61 received both degrees. The alumni profiles below highlight a few of our graduates.
Graduates from the Marine Conservation and Policy Program are prepared for a variety of careers, including jobs in the government, non-profit, and private sectors. One recent MCP graduate, Hazel Wodehouse, is training the next generation of ocean scientists at Suffolk Community College on Long Island.
Since graduating from the MCP program, Wodehouse has been teaching courses such as Environmental Issues and Introduction to Oceanography as an adjunct professor. Wodehouse finds that after taking her courses, her students have a deeper connection with the environment and the marine habitats that surround them. She described a particular experience about a year ago when she took students to see a whale necropsy.
“I took all of my classes to see the whale that day,” recalled Wodehouse. “One of my students told me later that seeing the whale was the highlight of their educational career.”
Wodehouse attributes the MCP program for helping her being successful in her career. Courses required by the program in communicating science were among her favorite, and got her interested in teaching. The one-year program allowed her to get a quality education in a short amount of time. What is her advice to the current class?
“Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. Even if you don’t initially think you’ll be interested in something, you might surprise yourself,” says Wodehouse.
KESTREL PEREZ graduated in 2011 with her PhD in marine and atmospheric sciences. Under the advisement of Professor Stephan Munch, Kestrel’s dissertation examined the evolution of size in fish and evaluated the strength of natural selection and the presence of prolonged trade-offs from an early period of fast growth to better understand the evolution of size. She joined the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 2005 as a scholar in the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and is a recipient of the Dr. W. Burghardt Turner Fellowship. Upon completing her PhD, Kestrel went on to a postdoctoral position at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Marine Sciences.
Kestrel is an assistant professor of biology at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she is teaching courses in marine biology and evolution and ecology, and mentoring undergrad researchers. Her research centers on marine biology. Specifically, she focuses on fish and invertebrate evolutionary ecology, the study of life history traits and maternal investments, and how variation in these areas influences larval fitness and recruitment.
Katie Kennedy is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, who became Associate Director of Stewardship for Lehigh University in 2014. Prior to graduating cum laude from the Appalachian School of Law in 2013, Katie obtained her BA in SoMAS’ Environmental Studies program focusing on Marine Biology. While at Stony Brook she worked as a marine mammal trainer intern at Atlantis Marine World and conducted research in Professor Gordon Taylor’s marine microbiology lab. According to Katie “Stony Brook provided me with a truly transformative experience.”
Katie admits that while she’s not in a traditional career associated with marine science, as an attorney, she uses many transferable skills she developed at SoMAS. “I learned to think critically. I also learned how to digest vast amounts of information and turn that information into something worthwhile. I also learned how to apply myself and rise above grand challenges. SoMAS taught me that I had a lot of grit. I am an attorney who is working for an institution of higher education and I use those critical thinking skills in many other rewarding ways!”
Katie’s advice for current students in SoMAS are to meet with your professors outside of class, find a good physical space for studying, conduct research that you are passionate about and take advantage of the SoMAS advisers expertise.
Tom Di Liberto grew up on Long Island and has been fascinated by the weather since he was a young child. At SoMAS, Tom studied under professor Brian Colle of the Institute for Terrerstrial and Planetary Atmospheres (ITPA) and worked with the School’s Storm Surge Research Group. His thesis dealt with storm surges affecting the New York metropolitan region. After earning his Masters degree in Atmospheric Science/Meteorology in 2009, he joined the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where he works as a meteorologist forecasting the weather for Africa, Central America, Hispaniola, and Central Asia with a focus on weather hazards that could affect food security. In addition, Tom conducts research on the use of satellite-derived rainfall estimates in these regions. His research group’s studies took on a whole new level of importance during the past year due to Super Storm Sandy. In 2013, Tom won the “America’s Science Idol” competition.
The “America’s Science Idol” competition was sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, Discover Magazine,Popular Science and the Point of Inquiry Podcast. Patterned a bit after “American Idol”, the fun and engaging workshop was designed to help scientists and engineers communicate with non-technical colleagues and audiences. In winning, Tom brought home some nice loot, viz.: 1-year subscriptions to Discover and Popular Science; a live guest appearance on the Point of Inquiry podcast and the Discover DVD, as well as a variety of opportunities to visit and link with science communication groups around the country.
Helen Cheng was the first recipient of the Stony Brook Mote Marine Laboratory Internship. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Marine Sciences in 2009. She is now at the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB). A recent spotlight highlighted her background
From Spotlight on Helen Cheng at the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay
The Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) and New York Sea Grant are happy to announce the arrival of Helen Cheng as the Specialist for the New York Sea Grant’s Jamaica Bay Coastal Resilience. Helen will be designing outreach programs to support community engagement and research efforts to enhance resilience for the communities within the Jamaica Bay Watershed.
“Urban areas are getting more attention, especially since the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy,” Cheng said. “Resilience is a priority across the national network of Sea Grant programs, and Jamaica Bay is internationally important setting for the issue.”
Cheng comes to SRJIB from a yearlong stint as a John D. Knauss 2015 Marine Policy Fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant, a highly competitive fellowship program among the nation’s highest qualified graduate students. She was the Coastal Communities Specialist working in the National Sea Grant Office in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she synthesized Sea Grant Network research and extension activities surrounding coastal community sustainable development, hazard resilience, and climate change adaptation. She was on the NOAA Coastal Hazards Resilience Workshop Planning and Support team, and assessed institutional and network research portfolios from the 33 programs of the Sea Grant Network to help identify priorities of the National Sea Grant College Program.
Helen was selected a Knauss Fellow from the New Hampshire Sea Grant program. At the University of New Hampshire she earned her M.S. in Zoology with her research on horseshoe crabs. In New England, she also worked with lobsters and scallops, was a UNH teaching assistant, and a naturalist at the nearby Seacoast Science Center. Helen earned her B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University in 2009 where she was selected for the first-ever Stony Brook Mote Marine Laboratory internship.
David Novak is the Director of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland where he oversees national forecasts for heavy rainfall, snowfall, and hazardous weather. He received a PhD from SoMAS where his research involved numerical models to understand hazardous weather conditions and predict their occurrence.
David’s interest in weather has been life-long. “Growing up in the extremes of Minnesota, I’ve been fascinated with the weather, and in particular, snowstorms.” His dissertation work was an extension of this passion, where he studied localized heavy snowfall events, also known as mesoscale snowbands.
According to David, while at SoMAS he “learned to consider alternative viewpoints. Marine scientists, climate scientists, and meteorologists may think differently, but sharing those diverse views leads to a better solution. Appreciating and leveraging the diversity of viewpoints is critical to my job today.”
David was pushed to “think even bigger, work even harder, and achieve even more” at SOMAS. His advice for students is to seize opportunities that take us out the our comfort zones and expand our thinking.
David has developed a fulfilling career that combines his interests in hazardous weather, his passion for helping others and applies the technical skills he developed at Stony Brook University. “I love being at the heart of the nation’s weather forecasting service and science. Whether it be an accurate forecast of a hurricane, winter storm, flood, or heat wave, I know the information we provide every day really does matter to people’s lives. I love being at the center of these advances, and in a position to influence the direction of our service, while at the same time learning from the best talent in the nation.”
Jae Lee received both her PhD and MS from SoMAS, graduating in 2008. For her master’s thesis, Jae looked at radiative transfer modeling with Professor Bob Cess to estimate the earth’s radiation balance. Her PhD conducted under the direction of Professor Sultan Hameed focused on how the sun can influence Earth’s climate.
Jae recalls “Stony Brook offered her a very good education. I learned everything I should know for my job at Stony Brook.”
Jae is currently a research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is working on satellite mission for solar irradiance measurements and analyzing satellite data to determine solar variability and its impact on Earth’s climate. She is also “interested in arctic environment changes related with recent Greenland Ice Sheet losses.”
Jae’s advice to SoMAS students is to “Work and work, enjoy, be yourself; opportunities will come.”
Lynn Abramson has a forged a career path that began in marine science and now influences environmental policy on a national level. She was a Ph.D student at SoMAS from 2001 to 2007 working with Bob Aller and Cindy Lee on the biological carbon pump and related biogeochemical processes. Her dissertation focused on how mineral interactions influenced the decomposition of sinking particulate organic matter, using pigments and amino acids as tracers. She recalls knowing early in her time at SoMAS, that she wanted to apply her scientific knowledge in a way that could benefit others.
Upon graduation, Lynn received the prestigious John Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant program. Her one year fellowship morphed into more than five years of work on oceans, public lands, water resources, energy, and transportation issues when she joined the staff of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). After leaving Senator Boxer’s staff Lynn joined the Clean Energy Initiative with The Pew Charitable Trusts where she coordinates their Clean Energy Business Network, that informs and engages over 3,000 clean energy business leaders. At this non-profit, non-partisan organization, she currently conducts research and works on “federal policies to promote cleaner and more efficient sources of energy.
Lynn applies her scientific understanding of complex environmental problems to practical solutions that can be implemented by businesses across the nation. According to Lynn “having a strong foundation in science has given me a much deeper, more holistic understanding of the environmental issues I’ve worked on in my policy career. My Ph.D. work trained me in objective thinking—keeping an open mind and weighing conflicting information and perspectives before making a decision.” Lynn is an excellent example of how a rigorous education in the sciences can be applied to a career in environmental policy.
Lynn has some advice for current students looking towards their future careers. “Try to learn about the diverse range of work being done by the faculty and students there. Take advantage of courses in other departments and opportunities to get involved in your broader community.” She also reminds us that “communication is key to success-in graduate school and later in your career.”
“Being in Stony Brook University gave me the opportunity to experience what it means to be a marine biologist and I am thankful I have been a part of MSRC. The Marine Sciences Research Center is full of faculty who are supportive and always willing to help. I will always remember as I was applying to graduate school, all the faculty who were willing to talk to me and give me advice even though I was never one of their students and they were not my assigned advisors. Having had a mentor like Bassem Allam has really helped me become who I am today. He was supportive, helpful, and taught me how to become a better scientist. With him as my mentor, I was able to do a URECA summer project, present a poster at the URECA poster presentation event, as well as learn numerous lab skills. As I continue my studies in marine science, I can only hope that one day I will become a professor who like Mary Scranton, is always willing to take time out to advise students, who like Bassem Allam, inspires students to pursue marine science and instills confidence in students to think for themselves, and like all the faculty at marine science, who always keep an open door and a willingness to help every student.”
“I was very happy with my decision to come to MSRC at Stony Brook for my Ph.D., and I would highly recommend MSRC to future students. One of the biggest assets of the department is its open and friendly atmosphere. Not only is it relatively easy to collaborate with other laboratories on site, but the majority of students socialize together creating a warm, welcoming environment, which is so important considering how much time one spends on campus and interacting with colleagues. Students who decide to attend MSRC are rewarded with a wonderful opportunity to develop their own research interests with excellent faculty, and, when one has spare time, students can easily drive or take the train into New York City or hang out at the many nearby beaches.”
Dianne Greenfield. Ph.D. 2002
Research Assistant Professor
University of South Carolina & South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources
“I highly recommend Stony Brook and the Marine Sciences Research Center to prospective students. The faculty here are not only first-rate researchers; they sincerely care about seeing graduate students achieve their career goals in science. Students come to the MSRC from a variety of backgrounds and with a broad range of interests. This diversity is on of the MSRC’s greatest strengths. Students can pursue their interests in all areas of oceanographic research, and have the opportunity to participate in and design projects in locations ranging from the Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. Living near the water is an added plus. While some students rely on the sound as a study site, others are happy to go kayaking, swimming, sailing, and fishing there when they are not in the lab.”
Anitra Ingalls, Ph.D. 2002
University of Washington
“When I came to the MSRC to study the population biology of fishes, I was impressed by the breadth of topics addressed by the faculty. However, I couldn’t predict how valuable this diversity of interests would become to me. During the course of my research on the winter ecology of striped bass, I have frequently called upon the expertise of geologists, benthic ecologists, and physical oceanographers in planning experiments and interpreting findings. In addition I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of estuarine research projects outside my own work. Through this cooperation, I have gained a much better understanding of my study organism, and the estuarine environment in which it lives. Working among such a diverse group of scientists has been an incredibly challenging experience, and one which has been invaluable to my professional development.”
Tom Hurst. Ph.D. 2000
Research Scientist, National Marine Fisheries Service