Quarterdeck Volume 5, Number 3, December 1997
Enhancing the present and preparing for the future
The Oceanography Graduate Council (OGC) presents an excellent opportunity for graduate students to participate in departmental decisions and planning. Under the leadership of the dynamic and dedicated officers elected last April, OGC continues to prepare for the challenges of the new millennium. Eli Williams, the president of OGC, and Patrick Ressler, the vice president, are united in two main goals for oceanography graduate students:
To increase communication, Eli conducted a productive open meeting last spring between Department Head Dr. David Brooks and all of the graduate students. Dr. Brooks was very supportive. This fall, Eli initiated a new student introductory tour which allowed the new graduate students to meet several oceanography professors in their labs and learn about their current research. Several of the "old," curious students, myself included, joined the tour.
In addition, the faculty worked with Patrick and Eli to organize a biological oceanography forum. The forum fostered stronger relationships between the professors and students and has grown into a weekly biological seminar. Professors and students report on themselves and their research while enjoying bagels, juice, and coffee. The small investment of time and effort in this casual seminar is a brilliant way to increase mutual understanding.
Recently, OGC scheduled student lunches with each of three candidates for a biological oceanography faculty position. A graduate student email debate raged over which candidate we should recommend to the search committee, which includes a graduate student member. Oceanography graduate students also serve on other departmental committees with many functions, including evaluating the best uses for selected monies and determining specific goals for the department with steps to achieve them. Students also participate in university-wide committees such as the Graduate Student Council. By being involved, we ensure that our needs are expressed and understood, and we are empowered to make improvements. As Patrick emphasized, "One important role of the OGC is to provide a way for us to take responsibility for the education we are receiving."
OGC also provides an avenue for students to obtain the necessary tools to conduct interesting research. OGC has an ongoing mini-grant program that allows students to apply for assistance to attend and present research papers at scientific conferences. The officers of OGC are working to expand this program to help more oceanography students within the limits of state law, which now requires that any recipient be a state employee.
The new Apollo LCD Projector purchased last year with OGC funds is a recent technological addition that combines a traditional projector and a computer to provide computerized presentations and slide shows. In addition, a new PC computer lab, when completed, will give graduate students access to both IBM and Macintosh computers. Other goals for technological equipment include upgrading disk space and memory in our existing Macintosh computer lab and placing an Internet connection in the office of every student.
In the midst of all of this planning and involvement, graduate students must also concentrate on their classes and their research. Eli, a master's student in biological oceanography, is studying an offshore phytoplankton species, Prochlorococcus. Patrick is a Ph.D. student using the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to estimate zooplankton and micronekton biomass in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Other graduate students research tidal patterns, currents, sediments, coral reefs, deep-sea gas vents, squid, vertical migration, and more. In addition to their own projects, graduate students have separate responsibilities as research assistants in labs or as teaching assistants for the laboratory portion of an undergraduate oceanography course. Juggling all of this effectively is a challenge to all graduate students, but the results definitely make the struggle worthwhile. As Eli explains, "The success and reputation of the department will follow all of us after we graduate. Any time, energy, and effort we take to improve the department now will enhance our success in the future."
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Last updated December 9, 1997