Joint Program Interdisciplinary Statement

MIT/WHOI Joint Program Students have courses of study and research that are tailored to each student's scholarly interests.

The MIT/WHOI Joint Program's goal is for each student to achieve their full intellectual potential in their chosen area of study and research, either within the more traditional disciplines of ocean sciences and engineering or within interdisciplinary studies incorporating two or more disciplines.

To guide students in this endeavor the MIT/WHOI Joint Program faculty has established five focal areas: biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, physical oceanography and applied ocean physics and engineering. The Joint Committee associated with each focal area provides guidance as to the course of study for incoming students who have strong interests in that focal area.

Many applicants have interests, academic background, and experience that are appropriate for one of these focal areas and they will be admitted to pursue their degree in that area. It is also likely that some incoming students will have, or develop, interests that span two or more of these focal areas. These students will be admitted to the focal area that is most appropriate for their preparation and stated interests. This ensures that the student has a well defined 'home' within the Joint Program.

During the first semester in the Joint Program, as early as practical, each student should assemble and meet with an academic advisory committee to discuss their research interests and formulate a tentative individual course of study. The structure of the advisory committee will be defined by the student's primary Joint Committee, but typically the advisory committee will consist of at least the student's primary research advisor (who may or may not be from the 'home' focal area) and a faculty member from the other institution.

For those students whose research interests significantly overlap two or more Joint Committee focal areas this advisory committee should, at the request of the student and the principal advisor, include faculty from the related focal area(s) at one or both institutions. The individual course of study will lead to a general examination with a format and scope that are both generally consistent with the requirements of the primary focal area's Joint Committee and flexible enough to recognize the individualized aspects of the course of study. The course of study must be approved by the primary Joint Committee, preferably by the end of the first year. The format of the exam also must be determined by the primary Joint Committee, and will be set no later than early in the semester before the exam. It is expected that the advisory committee will guide the student up to and through the general exam, after which the oversight will move to the student's Ph.D. thesis committee, whose membership must be approved by the home Joint Committee. The home Joint Committee will be responsible for monitoring the student's academic progress through the thesis defense.

Version 8. revised (5/14/04)

Examples of Interdisciplinary Academic Studies

Physical Oceanography
Physical-biological interactions track

This is the course syllabus followed by a Ph.D. graduate who focused on mechanisms of physical-biological interaction in the open ocean.  This program of study included extensive coursework in both physical and biological oceanography, as well an introductory course in marine chemistry.  This student supplemented the Joint Program offerings with extra-curricular summer courses in microbial ecology and ecosystems/climate.

Courses completed for master's degree:

12.800 - Fluid Dynamics of Atmosphere & Ocean

12.818 - Atmospheric Data & Synoptic Meteor

18.075 - Advanced Calculus for Engineers

Term Course Number Course Name
Fall 12.742 Marine Chemistry
  12.808 Intro to Observational Physical Oceanography
  12.862 Coastal Physical Oceanography
  18.085 Computational Science & Engineering I
Spring 7.440 Introduction to Mathematical Ecology
  7.47 Biological Oceanography
  12.802 Wave Motions in the Ocean and Atmosphere
  12.823 Modeling the Biology and Physics of the Ocean
Summer   C-MORE Agouron course on Microbial Oceanography
    NCAR ASP Colloquium on Ecosystems and Climate
Fall 2.29 Numerical Fluid Mechanics
  12.803 Quasi-Balanced Circulations
  12.704 Large-scale Flow Dynamics Lab
Spring 7.437 Topics:Molec Biol Oceanography
  12.801 General Circulation of Ocean
  12.820 Turbulence in Ocean and Atmos
 Spring 3rd year 7.410 Applied Statistics


Applied Ocean Science and Engineering - Civil Engineering
Physical-biological interactions track

This is the course syllabus followed by a Ph.D. graduate who studied the ways in which the ocean's physical environment, especially the flow environment, affects the distribution of marine organisms. This syllabus thus includes a significant fluid mechanics component along with biological oceanography and applied mathematics.

Term Course Number Course Name
Fall 1.67 Sediment Transport and Coastal Processes
  1.69 Introduction to Coastal Engineering
  12.800 Fluid Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Spring 7.47 Biological Oceanography
  12.801 Steady Circulation of the Oceans
  12.862 Coastal Physical Oceanography
Fall 1.89 Environmental Microbiology
  18.085 Mathematical Methods for Engineers I
Spring 1.77 Water Quality Control
  18.086 Mathematical Methods for Engineers II
Fall 12.742 Marine Chemistry
Spring 12.864 Inference from Data and Models


Biology-Applied Ocean Science and Engineering
Bio-acoustics track

This Ph.D. student studied the use of acoustic methods as a means to sample marine ecosystems. This course curriclum thus includes components from acoustics/underwater sound, along with mathematical methods and marine ecology.

Term Course Number Course Name
Fall 7.51 Graduate Biochemistry
  18.03 Ordinary Differential Equations
  12.742 Marine Chemistry
  12.808 Observational Physical Oceanography
Spring 6.041 Probabilistic Systems Analysis
  18.075 Advanced Calculus for Engineers
  7.47 Biological Oceanography
Fall 12.710 Marine Geology and Geophysics
  2.066 (formerly 13.851) Fundamentals and Applications of Underwater Sound
  12.961 Special Problems in Physical Oceanography
Spring 7.440 Introduction to Mathematical Ecology
  7.431 Coral Reef Fish Ecology
Fall 7.434 Time Series Analysis
  2.691 (formerly 13.871) Wave Scattering by Rough Surfaces and Randomly Inhomogeneous Media
Spring 7.433 Fisheries Oceanography
Fall 11.952 Science, Politics, and Environmental Policy
Spring 12.961 Modeling the Biology and Physics of the Oceans