HPU Offers New Master's Degree in Marine Science

Hawai'i Pacific University has launched a new Master of Science in Marine Science (MSMS) degree program to start this fall, allowing students to engage in research projects and pursue careers in teaching, oceanography, and marine research.

The two-year, thesis-based master's degree program will emphasize laboratory research and fieldwork. Each graduate student will work on a research project of his or her own design with a mentor professor responsible for guiding the student through his or her coursework, research, and thesis.

"One of the key distinctions of our marine science program is our focus on science education and training, and less about the outcome of the research itself. For us, the student's future is most important and comes first, before the publication or the next grant," said Dr. Alissa Arp, dean of HPU's College of Natural Sciences and vice president of research.

"We are filling a particular niche not previously offered on the island by building on HPU's strengths -- a rigorous, intimate setting between students and professors," said Dr. Chris Winn, director of HPU's marine and environmental science program.

Small class sizes will offer professors close contact with students. The faculty members involved in the program have diverse backgrounds and expertise and are "excited, driven, and want to share their experiences with students," said Arp, herself a nationally renowned deep-sea research scientist and educator.

Students will learn to solve complex marine systems problems and demonstrate competence in scientific communications through hands-on field experiences, reports, publications, and oral presentations.

These learning experiences will better prepare graduates for positions in organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other entities offering scientific research, consulting, and teaching opportunities.

"Their opportunities are wide open. With a degree in science you are qualified to do almost anything, since students will have had training in mathematics, writing, and analytical, critical, and creative thinking," said Arp.

Students will be based at the University's 56-acre aquaculture facility affiliate Oceanic Institute (OI), serving as an invaluable learning laboratory as students weave fieldwork, experiments, and lab analysis into their educational experiences and work alongside professional scientists.

"An integral part of the OI-HPU collaboration is that OI scientists and HPU faculty will team up to work with students and determine what kind of impact we can have locally on the coastal environment," said Arp.

Students will work with HPU and OI scientists, exploring marine chemistry, finding potential medical applications from marine compounds, and conducting research on marine mammal issues, such as investigating the causes of animal strandings on local beaches.

"HPU and OI will work together to provide graduates the latest science and innovation in marine biology, aquaculture, and oceanography," she said. "The MSMS program is a key to a strong science program which will contribute to distinguishing HPU as a leading comprehensive university."

The first MSMS degree candidates will have the unique opportunity of helping shape the program's future.

"There's much to be gained from being a part of a program at ground zero. Professors will play an active role in forming and shaping the program, and students, as the program's founding participants, will -- in a sense -- become the stars of the College, receiving individualized attention and benefits. Everyone, both faculty and students, will take part in a lifelong connection to a program that is clearly going to leave an impact not only on the University, but the state as well."

For more information on HPU's new Master of Science in Marine Science degree program, visit hpu.edu/msms or call 544-1135.