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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 https://mit.whoi.edu/admissions/funding/graduate-fellowship-opportunities/

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

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: http://mseas.mit.edu/research and our recent publications here http://mseas.mit.edu/publications.

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 boomlab.whoi.edu.

The Seltzer lab is looking for a doctoral student to work on an NSF-funded project to study dissolved gases in archived samples that were originally collected at sea in the 1980s. The overarching goal of the project is to improve our understanding of what processes control the efficiency or air-sea gas exchange in the high latitudes, where deep waters form and important gases like CO2 are transferred to the deep ocean. The project involves measurement of noble gases and their isotopes, as well as the triple oxygen isotope (16O16O, 17O16O,18O16O) composition of dissolved O2. While there are several main driving questions, the project is fairly open-ended and provides opportunities to focus on gas-exchange physics, biogeochemistry, and/or tracer-enabled models. This project is a collaboration between multiple scientists at WHOI, Columbia, and Wellesley and involves opportunities to work in multiple labs. An interest in mass spectrometry is desired, and strong data analysis skills are a plus but certainly not required. Interested applicants from all races, genders, and sexual orientations are welcome, and those from underrepresented backgrounds in the geosciences are especially encouraged to apply.

The Subhas lab is excited to advertise an NSF-funded Ph.D. position to work on the enzyme carbonic anhydrase.  The project will focus on developing a novel mass spectrometry assay to measure the carbonic anhydrase activity of cultured organisms and environmental samples, and use this assay system to define kinetic rate constants for carbonic anhydrases isolated from marine phytoplankton such as diatoms and coccolithophores. This NSF-funded project involves collaboration with the Saito lab, and will involve proteomic identification and linkage of protein activity to trace metal usage within cell cultures. The Broader Impacts part of this project will involve a field expedition to the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series with collaborator Indu Sharma of Hampton University. An interest in analytical mass spectrometry and laboratory analyses are a plus. The Subhas lab welcomes interested applicants from all races, genders, and sexual orientations, especially those that are underrepresented in STEM and the Earth Sciences.

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Dr. Kassandra Costa is seeking a doctoral student for an NSF-funded project to study carbon storage in the deep Pacific during the last two glacial-interglacial climate cycles. During the last ice age, atmospheric CO2 was about 100ppm lower than pre-industrial CO2 concentrations, as a result of physical and biogeochemical processes that sequestered CO2 from the atmosphere into the abyssal ocean. The student will investigate the amount of carbon stored in the deep Pacific, its distribution in different water masses, and its impact on seafloor sediment chemistry. The goals of the project are to (1) better characterize the carbon systematics in the Pacific and compare them with our canonical understanding of carbon in the Atlantic, (2) explore the mechanistic reversibility of ocean carbon storage and carbon release from the deep ocean, and (3) evaluate the temporal evolution of seawater CO2 storage and sedimentary CO2 storage in the form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The student will have the opportunity to learn multiple analytical techniques in geochemistry (230Th-normalization, major and trace elemental sediment geochemistry, B/Ca in benthic foraminifera, ICP-MS) and micropaleontology (foraminiferal assemblages, d18O, d13C). The student will also be able to participate in outreach and mentorship activities with undergraduates recruited from diverse backgrounds.

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.

Dr. Veronique Le Roux is seeking a doctoral student to be part of an NSF-funded interdisciplinary study (collaboration with Scripps and BC) on water/volatiles in lower crustal cumulates from arc settings. The student will be primarily trained in using and developing secondary ion mass spectrometry techniques and other geochemical techniques (e.g., SEM-EDS, LA-ICP-MS, EPMA etc.), with opportunities to contribute to discussion related to rheology and numerical modeling of crustal foundering, as part of the larger collaborative project. The goal is to use exposed terranes of lower crustal cumulates to determine the water contents of arc roots and primary arc magmas, building on novel results from our preliminary study. The Le Roux lab strongly encourages people of diverse backgrounds to reach out and apply.

Physical Oceanography

Dr. Young-Oh Kwon is seeking a doctoral student to join his research group to study the western boundary current (WBC) variability and midlatitude air-sea interaction for a NOAA-funded project. WBCs, such as the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, are the regions of largest ocean variability and intense air-sea interaction. In particular at interannual and longer time scales, the WBC variability generates strong ocean-to-atmosphere heat fluxes, resulting in anomalous diabatic heating that can impact the large-scale atmospheric circulation and the poleward heat transport in both the ocean and atmosphere. Therefore, variability in the WBCs and associated air-sea interaction play fundamental roles in regulating our climate. In addition, the WBCs variability have significant impact on extreme weather, coastal ecosystem, and sea-level. Despite the importance of WBC variability and associated midlatitude air-sea interaction, the WBCs are the regions with some of the largest and longstanding ocean biases in the state-of-the-art climate models. The primary goal of this project is to investigate the nature and impacts of the main biases of the WBC variability in state-of-the-art climate models based on a set of process-oriented diagnostics, and establish their dependence on model resolution, as well as their links to main large-scale circulation biases.

Dr. Isabela Le Bras is seeking a doctoral student to join her research group and study the ventilation pathways for oxygen and carbon dioxide into the deep North Atlantic. Carbon dioxide uptake in the subpolar North Atlantic is thought to significantly mitigate global warming, but as global warming continues, ventilation may decline, potentially weakening this CO2 sink and also reducing oxygen levels throughout the Atlantic. However, a lack of direct observations of dissolved gases has limited accurate budgeting and hindered understanding of the processes which govern the sequestration of gases into the deep ocean. This NSF-funded project will include analysis of novel oxygen measurements on OSNAP (www.o-snap.org) moorings in the western Irminger Sea. Our research group’s focus will be on the physical processes underlying oxygen ventilation, such as boundary current dynamics, boundary-interior exchange, and deep entrainment. There will be opportunities to go to sea, as well as opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration with ocean biogeochemists and numerical modelers. A strong background in physics and/or math and keen interest in data analysis would be beneficial.

Dr. Hyodae Seo is seeking a highly motivated, climate dynamics and modeling-oriented doctoral student to study coupled ocean-atmosphere-land processes in the Northeast Pacific. The NSF-funded project will use high-resolution regional coupled model simulations to 1) examine how anomalously warm coastal ocean temperatures during marine heatwaves affect extreme weather events and hydro-climate variability in North America, and 2) assess how the projected greenhouse-gas-forced changes in large-scale drivers will influence this interaction. The student will gain firsthand knowledge in air-sea interaction modeling and analysis of climate variability. Strong quantitative, technical, analytical skills are required, and prior experience in WRF, ROMS, or WaveWatch3 models is preferred.

Dr. Robert Todd is seeking a PhD student to work on an Office of Naval Research-funded project that is focused on the Gulf Stream’s encounter with seamounts in the western North Atlantic. Autonomous underwater gliders will survey the region as part of a multi-institution program. The larger program is focused characterizing the physical and acoustic environment as a strong and variable current impinges upon prominent topography. The student will have the opportunity to work with new observations collected as part of this project as well as an existing multi-year set of Gulf Stream observations; they will also be able to interact with physical oceanographers and acousticians as part of the larger program.