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USM School of Ocean Science and Engineering Offers Wealth of Opportunities for Graduate Students

Fri, 01/26/2024 - 10:56am | By: Gabriela Shinskie

Graduate Students

Graduate students in The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Ocean Science and Engineering are afforded unique opportunities to conduct hands-on marine exploration and research that will prepare them for essential careers in coastal sciences.

SOSE welcomes seven new graduate students for the Spring 2024 semester, the largest incoming class for the spring semester in program history. The students will be pursuing graduate and doctoral education in Coastal Sciences, Marine Science and Hydrographic Science.

Six students begin their post-graduate careers in the Division of Coastal Sciences (COA), with one student in the Division of Marine Sciences (DMS). Two of the students in COA are international students with there will be one international student in DMS.

Dr. Robert Leaf, interim Director of SOSE, is excited about the students’ opportunity to immerse themselves in the programs. The SOSE graduate programs have had many recent successes. These include students awarded the prestigious Knauss Fellowship along with various hands-on research along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Graduate Students


Leaf believes the availability of funding, which includes several grant awards for research is a large contributor to the increase in enrollment for graduate studies.

“The faculty in SOSE have been extremely successful in securing extramural funding to expand our research programs.” said Leaf. “This funding will allow faculty to support exploration of the coastal and marine system in the northern Gulf of Mexico.”

“Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is home to a variety of activities including fisheries, tourism, and transport,” said Leaf. “USM’s SOSE is committed to training the next generation of scientists that can help promote the economic growth of our region while preserving the health of the ecosystem.”

The Division of Coastal Sciences offers exceptional masters and doctoral programs focusing on marine and coastal research and education. Students gain knowledge in coastal ecology, aquaculture, aquatic health, and fisheries. The program prepares students to enter marine-related careers such as conversation biologists, coastal ecologists and marine geneticists. Many graduates find work within government agencies, consulting firms and research institutions.

Graduate Students

Graduate students in the Coastal Sciences become members of the Marine and Estuarine Graduate Student Association (MEGSA), a graduate student organization at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL). The organization offers a place for students to come together and discuss ideas centered in marine research along with organizing community and volunteer projects.

“The graduate students in SOSE will be trained in state-of-the-art methods in the disciplines of marine science and biology including human and ocean health, aquaculture, coastal ecology and resilience, and fishery science. They will pursue this in a rigorous and collegial environment.” said Leaf.

Those students majoring in DMS masters and doctoral programs can find themselves surrounded by those who share a deep passion for marine systems. Students focus on ocean modeling, coastal processes and remote sensing. Graduates find careers as environmental consultants, university professors, marine technicians and coastal restoration specialists.

Within the DMS, students can join the Student Oceanographic Society (SOS) to network and provide academic needs within the program. Students also become involved in outreach events to collaborate with scientists along the Gulf Coast.

“SOSE’s training of practitioners in the sustainable use of ocean resources will lead to economic growth and improved livelihoods for Mississippi’s Gulf Coast,” said Leaf.

A plethora of opportunities are available for students to fully immerse themselves within the programs including the uniqueness of the USM Uncrewed Maritime Systems (UMS) Certificate Program. Taught at the Marine Research Center (MRC) and Stennis Space Center, these marine science programs focus on planning, deployment, operation and recovery of uncrewed vehicles used for oceanographic and hydrographic survey and research. Within the certificate, potential careers include UMS operator or pilot, marine robotics engineer, offshore surveyor and marine sensor specialist.

SOSE students have contributed to many research opportunities that benefit the Mississippi Gulf Coast including using forecast models of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and seeing its effects on coastal oyster populations. Students have contributed to USM’s record for glider missions out in the gulf and other coastal evolutions.

Graduate students organize annual beach cleanups with the local community and Science on Tap lectures at a local pub. For students, the possibilities to getting involved are infinite and provide an experience of a lifetime.

Learn more about the School of Ocean Science and Engineering.