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Research Projects for New Students

Several funded research projects for new students are listed below.

Many other faculty are interested in attracting students to study with them.  Several have pending proposal that may be funded by the time admissions decisions are made. Funding may also come from internal MIT-WHOI fellowship sources, or external Fellowship sources for which prospective students are encouraged to apply. See list at

We encourage prospective students to explore faculty's research areas of interest and contact them directly. When contacting them, please state your research interests and include your CV and an unofficial transcript.

Applied Ocean Science and Engineering

Drs. Seth Zippel, Malcolm Scully, and  Jim Edson are seeking a doctoral student for an NSF-funded project to study turbulence in the oceanic and atmospheric boundary layers. We are hoping to understand the role of ocean waves, wave breaking, and turbulent pressure in atmosphere and ocean exchanges, which are central to understanding air/sea transfer of heat, gasses, and momentum. We will conduct two field experiments with a tower in Pamlico sound, NC, collecting wave, turbulence, and pressure data on both the atmosphere and water sides of the boundary. These findings will help improve our fundamental understanding of air/sea interactions, which are central to weather, climate, and upper ocean transport for biota, plastics, and other tracers.

The MSEAS group at MIT has graduate student positions available. Our research vision is to develop and transform ocean modeling, data assimilation and inference schemes to quantify regional ocean dynamics on multiple scales. Our group creates and utilizes new models and methods for multiscale modeling, uncertainty quantification, data assimilation and the guidance of autonomous vehicles. We then apply these advances to better understand physical, acoustical and biological interactions. Our environment is collaborative within a lively group of students and researchers. We seek both fundamental and applied contributions to build knowledge and benefit society. Our present research projects are outlined here: and our recent publications here

Biological Oceanography


Chemical Oceanography

Dr. David Nicholson is seeking a doctoral student to study the role of the ocean in carbon uptake and sequestration via the solubility and biological carbon pumps. In particular, a position is available on a new NSF-funded project on understanding the role that marine phytoplankton in the North Atlantic Ocean play in the carbon cycle. The project focuses on utilizing data from Biogeochemical Argo floats and satellite remote sensing.  An interest in global biogeochemical cycles and strong quantitative/data analysis skills are desired. Some programming experience in Python or Matlab is a plus. More information on projects can be found at

Dr. Adam Subhas is seeking a doctoral student to join his research group specializing in marine calcium carbonate biogeochemistry. The student will join a highly collaborative research team to work on an NSF-funded project investigating the role of marine viruses on carbon export in the ocean.  The student will help to design and run novel experiments to investigate the effects of viral infection and subsequent particle aggregation on the dissolution of bio-minerals such as coccolithophore calcite and diatom silica (opal).  Experiments will involve isotopically labeling biominerals through culturing work, and subsequently tracing that isotopic signature after viral infection and aggregation.  The student will have the opportunity to learn several novel analytical and experimental techniques, including organism culturing, laser-based carbon isotope ratio analysis, and multicollector ICP-MS. The project further involves fieldwork opportunities in the form of two research cruises, one to the North Atlantic to investigate coccolithophore blooms, and one off the coast of California to investigate diatom blooms.

Dr. Benjamin Van Mooy is seeking one or two students for funded projects focused on the production and fate of fats in the upper ocean. Phytoplankton, microscopic photosynthetic organisms in the ocean, produce a type of fat called triacylglycerols (TAGs). A recent discovery in the North Pacific Ocean showed that a significant percentage of primary production from phytoplankton is devoted to producing TAGs. This suggests that TAGs may serve as a source of energy for phytoplankton at night, when they cannot generate energy from photosynthesis. Phytoplankton are the base of the food web in the ocean. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how they create and store energy. This project will investigate the role of fats in the sea, as well as other energy-storage molecules like carbohydrates and polyphosphate. Specifically, this research will look at: 1) factors that affect the production and use of these molecules by phytoplankton and 2) how TAGs, carbohydrates, and polyphosphate contribute to the global carbon cycle. This project will support the training and education of graduate students. There will be research cruises in the North Pacific subtropical gyre just north of Hawaii, the Gulf of Maine, the Oregon shelf, the Sargasso Sea southeast of Bermuda, and the waters of the West Antarctic Peninsula.

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Dr. Forrest Horton is seeking a doctoral student FOR AN NSF-FUNDED PROJECT to study the geochemistry of lavas from Baffin Island, arctic Canada. These samples contain the isotopically lightest helium of any terrestrial igneous rocks, indicating that they perhaps material from the deepest and most primordial regions of Earth's mantle. The goals of the project are to (1) better characterize this deep mantle component using an array of isotopic systems, (2) improve our understanding of helium behavior in magmatic environments, and (3) evaluate the temporal evolution of mantle plumes. The student will have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork, learn a wide variety of analytical techniques (noble gas mass spectrometry, laser ablation ICP-MS, and SIMS), and/or conduct high-temperature diffusion experiments.

Physical Oceanography

Dr. Hyodae Seo is seeking a doctoral student to join his research group specializing in air-sea interaction and climate modeling. The successful candidate will collaborate on an NSF-funded project to examine coupled ocean-atmosphere-land processes that affect the climate, weather, and upwelling on California coastal regions. In particular, the project will use a series of high-resolution regional coupled model simulations to explore 1) how the ocean-atmosphere coupling arising from anomalously warm coastal ocean temperatures during marine heatwaves affects the coastal and inland climate, and 2) how this interaction is influenced by the projected greenhouse-gas-forced changes in large-scale drivers, such as the expansion of the Hadley Cell, repositioning of the North Pacific High Pressure system, and increases in ocean stratification. For further details about the project, please see here  or contact Dr. Hyodae Seo directly.

Dr. Jake Gebbie is seeking a doctoral student to collaborate on a NASA-funded project that combines physical oceanography, paleoceanography, and climate dynamics. The aim of the project is to detect the remnants of the Little Ice Age in the modern ocean. Some subsurface ocean waters were last in contact with the atmosphere several hundred years ago during the cold period known as the Little Ice Age, and are expected to exhibit a slow cooling trend in the mid-depth Pacific Ocean. Multiple forms of information are available to address the aim of the project, including the ECCO ocean reanalysis product that combines millions of in-situ and satellite observations. The project also provides the possibility of using paleoceanographic sediment core data, historical ship observations, and general circulation models. If remnants of the Little Ice Age are detectable, estimates of ocean heat uptake and transient climate sensitivity will have to be substantially revised. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to join both the Paleoceanography and Climate Physics groups at WHOI.