They look just like you do. They talk (more or less) like you do. They may even BE SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU IN BIOCHEMISTRY!!!!!! They are…. Woods Hole Oceanographic Students! Yes, that's right! Many MIT Bio grad students are unaware that, in conjunction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
on Cape Cod, MIT offers Ph.D.'s in not only Biological Oceanography, but four other oceanographic disciplines as well (Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering; Chemical, Physical, and Geological/Geophysical Oceanography). Potential candidates for the Joint Program may interview at WHOI, at MIT, or at both schools, thus craftily eluding your powers of perception.
Known affectionately as "WHOI students" (pronounced /whoo-ey/, similar to the noise one makes when expectorating), these hybrid organisms start off as cryptic sister species to MIT Bio grads, taking many of the same classes, eating many of the same foods, and dreaming many of the same dreams. But do not be fooled. Some Joint Program students are interested in such obscure and arcane topics as so-called "Evolution", "Ecology", and "Behavior"; many subscribe to the radical notion that organisms other than the Fab Five (S. cerevisiae, C. elegans, D. melanogaster, M. musculus, H. sapiens) are nevertheless worthy of research. Although otherwise more-or-less normal, they frequently incorporate such confounding words as "foraminifera" /fore-am-in-ih-fer-ah/ and "lecithotrophic" /leh-sih-thoe-troe-fik/ into conversation. Translation-oriented dictionaries are available.
After the first semester, WHOI students begin taking classes at WHOI (hence the clever name) as well as continuing their MIT-based education. Although many are matched up with an advisor or lab during the initial application and acceptance processes, some do not choose a lab until later in graduate life, and are free to work with MIT professors as well as those at WHOI. Joint Program classes are open to all MIT students, graduate or undergraduate, and professors are always delighted to receive visitor students from MIT or other nearby schools. A free shuttle service connects MIT with Woods Hole; Bonanza Bus lines also run between the two, and students can usually be reimbursed for this service if need be. So next time you're in the Pit, ask yourself this: have you hugged a WHOI student today?
Founded in 1930, Woods Hole Oceanographic itself is the second-oldest oceanographical institution in the country, after the Marine Biological Laboratories just down the street. The additional presence of other facilities, like the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) gives the village a large scientific presence and provides many opportunities for collaborative work. After its founding, WHOI quickly rose to its present prominence in the oceanographic community worldwide. The Institution has enjoyed a long history of active and innovative research, including the pioneering work of Henry Stommel on large-scale oceanic circulation, Alfred Redfield's (of "Redfield ratio" fame) ecological work in salt marshes, and Dr. Robert Ballard's recent discovery of the RMS Titanic using WHOI's submersible Argo.