Most students enter the Joint Program with a doctoral degree as their goal. For students entering with appropriate undergraduate preparation (a Bachelor of Science or equivalent degree in a relevant science), the academic program is typically made up of two years of graduate-level course work. Courses may be selected from a course list offered specifically by the Joint Program as well as the full range of courses at MIT. Midway through the first year or at the end of the second year, doctoral students then take a qualifying examination that tests their preparation to go forward with thesis research. When passed, the student will then present a proposal of thesis research, normally about six months after their qualifying exam. From there, the student will then focus on their thesis research, which requires another two to three years. Students who enter the program with a Master of Science degree may be able to complete the doctoral program in a shorter amount of time.

During the classroom-intensive phase of their studies, students are expected to be in residence near MIT. When students are no longer taking classes full time, they are expected to reside where their advisor/lab is located and to obtain housing in the local community. Students at either campus have access to a wide range of facilities and other resources including transportation to and from WHOI and MIT.

Students who have academic interests that span two or more science disciplines may readily combine courses and other academic preparation drawn from these disciplines. Joint Program policy is aimed to facilitate such interdisciplinary studies and includes examples of recent Joint Program students' curriculum.

All entering students are assigned a primary academic advisor chosen from the faculty of either MIT or WHOI, and are also assigned to a home discipline from the list below. These important choices are made based upon either a student's request at the time of the application or admission or based upon a match of the student's preparation and stated interests. It is not unusual for a student to change advisors or home disciplines as s/he develops specific research interests.

During the first semester, or as early as practical, each Joint Program student should form an Academic Advisory Committee to plan a tentative, individualized course of study. The Academic Advisory Committee will consist of the student's primary academic advisor and at least one other faculty member, ideally from the other institution. The student's Academic Advisory Committee will be responsible for monitoring his/her progress up to and through the general exam, after which the oversight will shift to the student's Ph.D. thesis committee.

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Academic Guidance

Applied Ocean Science and Engineering
Keywords: fluid mechanics, acoustics, vehicles, instruments

Biological Oceanography
Keywords: phytoplankton, zooplankton, microbial ecology, marine mammals, environmental toxicology, larval ecology, benthic ecology, mathematical ecology, population genetics, microbiology, fish ecology, biogeochemistry

Chemical Oceanography
Keywords: air-sea exchange, atmospheric chemistry, biogeochemistry, carbon cycle science, environmental chemistry, geochemistry, global change, ocean tracers, radiochemistry

Marine Geology and Geophysics
Keywords: seafloor volcanic, tectonic and hydrothermal processes, mantle dynamics, ocean crustal structure, continental rifting, paleoceanography, paleoclimatology, coastal processes

Physical Oceanography
Keywords: physics, fluid dynamics, applied mathematics, observations, theory, modeling, ocean circulation, climate