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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 goal of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program is for each student to achieve his or her full intellectual potential in the 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

These are the courses taken by two a Ph.D. graduates who focused on mechanisms of physical-biological interaction in the open ocean.  These programs of study included extensive coursework in both physical and biological oceanography, as well an introductory course in marine chemistry.  One student supplemented the Joint Program offerings with extra-curricular summer courses in microbial ecology and ecosystems/climate.

Ph.D. Graduate Example 1:

Courses completed for master's degree:

12.800 - Fluid Dynamics of Atmosphere & Ocean

12.818 - Atmospheric Data & Synoptic Meteorology

18.075 - Advanced Calculus for Engineers

TermCourse NumberCourse Name
Fall12.742Marine Chemistry
12.808Intro to Observational Physical Oceanography
12.862Coastal Physical Oceanography
18.085Computational Science & Engineering I
Spring7.440Introduction to Mathematical Ecology
7.47Biological Oceanography
12.802Wave Motions in the Ocean and Atmosphere
12.823Modeling the Biology and Physics of the Ocean
SummerC-MORE Agouron course on Microbial Oceanography
NCAR ASP Colloquium on Ecosystems and Climate
Fall2.29Numerical Fluid Mechanics
12.803Quasi-Balanced Circulations
12.804Large-scale Flow Dynamics Lab
Spring7.437Topics:Molec Biol Oceanography
12.801General Circulation of Ocean
12.820Turbulence in Ocean and Atmos
 Spring 3rd year7.410Applied Statistics

Ph.D. Graduate Example 2:

TermCourse NumberCourse Name
Fall12.800Fluid Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean
12.808Introduction to Observational Physical Oceanography
12.842Climate Physics and Chemistry
12.491Topics in Geophysics: Biogeochemistry of Sulfur
Spring7.430Linking Models to Observations of Plankton Ecosystems
12.801Steady Circulation of the Ocean
18.075Advanced Calculus for Engineers
SummerC-MORE Agouron course on Microbial Oceanography
Fall12.803Quasi-Balanced Circulations
12.804Large-Scale Flow Dynamics Lab
12.742Marine Chemistry
Spring7.440Mathematical Ecology
12.823Biological Physical Modelling
Fall12.747Modeling, Data Analysis and Numerical Techniques for Geochemistry

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
Fall1.67Sediment Transport and Coastal Processes
1.69Introduction to Coastal Engineering
12.800Fluid Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Spring7.47Biological Oceanography
12.801Steady Circulation of the Oceans
12.862Coastal Physical Oceanography
Fall1.89Environmental Microbiology
18.085Mathematical Methods for Engineers I
Spring1.77Water Quality Control
18.086Mathematical Methods for Engineers II
Fall12.742Marine Chemistry
Spring12.864Inference 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
Fall7.51Graduate Biochemistry
18.03Ordinary Differential Equations
12.742Marine Chemistry
12.808Observational Physical Oceanography
Spring6.041Probabilistic Systems Analysis
18.075Advanced Calculus for Engineers
7.47Biological Oceanography
Fall12.710Marine Geology and Geophysics
2.066 (formerly 13.851)Fundamentals and Applications of Underwater Sound
12.961Special Problems in Physical Oceanography
Spring7.440Introduction to Mathematical Ecology
7.431Coral Reef Fish Ecology
Fall7.434Time Series Analysis
2.691 (formerly 13.871)Wave Scattering by Rough Surfaces and Randomly Inhomogeneous Media
Spring7.433Fisheries Oceanography
Fall11.952Science, Politics, and Environmental Policy
Spring12.961Modeling the Biology and Physics of the Oceans