2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program—a union of institutions which has fostered careers and significant developments in oceanography and applied ocean science and engineering.
BY LONNY LIPSETT | MIT-WHOI JOINT PROGRAM NEWS
Abridged from the original, which ran in Oceanus Magazine
Read the full story here: http://bit.ly/jp_50
In 1968 aboard the vessel Chain, two esteemed scientific institutions launched an unorthodox academic experiment: each would remain fiercely independent, but they would jointly coordinate a graduate program to educate and train ocean scientists and engineers. At a time of scientific and political fervor for ocean sciences, the pairing was natural but unconventional. MIT ranked among the foremost centers of higher education in science and engineering. And WHOI scientists pioneered ocean instruments and vehicles and launched research ships from their port. One could provide world-class coursework; the other offered unparalleled fieldwork.
Today, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering (MIT-WHOI JP) is world-renowned, boasting 1,053 degrees awarded: 764 doctoral, 58 engineer’s and 231 master’s. These alumni have become leaders in the field and are making valuable contributions in research, teaching, government, industry, and the Navy.
To toast their golden anniversary, the institutions celebrated with festivities this past September, including a symposium at MIT with faculty, guests, and alumni, and a reception at WHOI with reflections from MIT-WHOI JP leadership on the program then, now, and where it’s headed.
“Our shared commitment to improving the understanding of the marine world and to the important mission of training new generations of marine scientists has kept us working productively for over a half century,” said Maria Zuber, the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Vice President for Research at MIT, speaking about the successes of the MIT-WHOI JP leadership, which presently includes MIT Program Director Edward Boyle—an early PhD graduate of the program in 1976 and professor of ocean geochemistry in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)—and his WHOI counterpart, Vice President and Dean for Academic Programs Margaret Tivey.
“Our education of oceanographers and earth scientists contributes to the rational discussion of our natural world—how it functions, how it’s changing, why it is changing, and what to expect in the future,” said WHOI Emeritus Senior Scientist Joe Pedlosky ’59, SM ’60, PhD ’63, who started in Woods Hole as the Doherty Oceanographer and taught in the MIT-WHOI JP for 28 years.
U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson—who earned three master’s degrees from the MIT-WHOI JP—spoke about the rich history of MIT, WHOI, and the Navy tackling challenges facing the U.S. “We in the Navy think of this [program] as just a jewel— a bright star in the constellation of possibilities in ocean sciences.…So much of our nation’s prosperity and our well-being is tied up and connected to the ocean,” Richardson said, citing oceangoing trade; transoceanic communications cables; the rising search for energy, mineral, and food resources in the ocean; and the preponderance of big cities located on the coast.
MIT-WHOI JP affiliates have also made significant contributions to advancing the science of climate change and informing policymakers’ understanding of that change and its impacts, according to John Holdren ’65, SM ’66, former president of the Woods Hole Research Center and science advisor to President Barack Obama, who gave a political history of the climate change debate at the symposium.
The two-day event included many graduates who spoke about their diverse contributions to the field. Among them were Heather Goldstone PhD ’03, who promotes science literacy through a weekly science radio news show, Living Lab; Hedy Edmonds PhD ’97, chair of the National Science Foundation’s chemical oceanography program; Oscar Pizarro PhD ’05, who launched robotic undersea vehicles developed at WHOI to monitor coral sites and other marine habitats around Australia; and Matt Jackson PhD ’08, whose work as a graduate student to map a giant undersea volcano near the Samoan Islands was the first to reveal its ongoing activity, having found that a huge cone had grown within the volcano’s crater since its first discovery.
That diversity of research has been a hallmark of the program. Chawalit Charoengpong, current MIT-WHOI JP student, noted that students have extraordinary access to exciting fieldwork and quickly become part of the teams doing cutting-edge research. Of the roughly 700 scientific papers published per year by WHOI scientists, more than 100 are co-authored by MIT-WHOI JP students, about 60 of those are first authors.
“Graduate students have helped my career and were involved in everything we did,” said MIT Institute Professor and former MIT-WHOI JP Director Sallie (Penny) Chisholm—one of several former program directors to speak at the event.
“Never before has an oceanographic education been so important,” Jackson said. “Basic research is desperately needed on Earth’s remaining frontier. Oceans are ground zero for climate changes, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, new species, coral reef damage, deep-sea mining, and impacts on marine ecology. These are huge issues, some of the most pressing issues we face, and the MIT-WHOI Joint Program is perfectly positioned to train scientists to address these issues.”
Read more about the history of the program here:
Story Image: The first four graduates of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program are seated in the front at the first commencement ceremonies in 1970 at WHOI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. WHOI’s research vessel Knorr (right) was in port for the occasion. Photo credit: WHOI Archives
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