There is the commute. About 80 miles, or 2 hours by bus or car, between Boston and Woods Hole.
But the story of student life in the Joint Program is not about the commute. Instead, the story is about figuring out whom you want to work with and what you want to do. And along the way, finding the right tempo between life in the city and in the small town.
Life of two campuses
Typically, students spend the first two years of the program at MIT—though where you live and how often you commute from one campus to the other depends on your specialty and the location of your advisor's lab. Most students spend summer semesters at WHOI.
At Woods Hole, students are treated like colleagues. Much is learned from listening to and working with other graduate students. Both Joint Program offices (at MIT and Woods Hole) "feel personal." Staff know the students and are quick to move on issues that need solving.
On both campuses, students have the resources of a world-class research institution at their fingertips. They talk of the value of being around colleagues who are studying the same interdisciplinary problems from other angles. Cross-pollination of ideas creates a buzz of excitement in hallways and at lunch tables.
There is opportunity to pursue other passions too, like music. After auditioning in the MIT Music and Arts Department, one recent student was offered subsidized lessons in harpsichord and a coveted chance to perform as a soloist at the Institute's Killian Hall. Another said of mixing piano and physics:
"I found it tremendously important as an emotional outlet. It's abstract, but you can emote while you do it, which you certainly can't do while writing your theories."
Harvard's cooperative agreement with the Joint Program means you can take advantage of another world-class university down the street (literally). Some students have Harvard faculty on their doctoral committees, for example. The Joint Program has an agreement with Brown University as well.
For more, see the Community section.
Managing the Commute
Regular bus service joins MIT and Woods Hole during the school year, and the program covers the costs. In addition, the program has a car for students to borrow for the trip and offers subsidized Boston bus and subway passes. Apartments are available, if you need to stay for a few days at one location or the other.
Bottom line, you do not need to have a car to be in this program. Nor would you incur any costs commuting between the two campuses for Joint Program purposes.
Housing can be particularly tight in the small village of Woods Hole. That is one reason why WHOI owns residential properties in the Woods Hole/Falmouth community. The WHOI Housing Office provides these residences for use by students and guests of the Institution. Student needs are the priority throughout the year.
MIT also provides help finding housing near the Cambridge campus. Go to the Department of Housing web page for more information.
Attending seminars and classes
Students typically do not have to commute to attend classes. Instead, the program uses videoconferencing to link classrooms at MIT and WHOI.