Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a graduate student in the marine sciences? Are you curious about what it takes to earn an advanced degree? Damian C. Brady and Kevin L. Stierhoff, master’s students in marine biology-biochemistry at UD’s Graduate College of Marine Studies, are learning what graduate study is all about.
On Thursday, July 25, at 7:00 p.m., at the UD College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Stierhoff and Brady will discuss their experiences as graduate students in their lecture, “The Stresses on Fish and Graduate Students In and Around the Delaware Bay.” The presentation is part of the Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which is held once a month at the Lewes campus through September.
In their presentation, Brady, a native of Brooklyn, New York, and Stierhoff, a native of Owings Mills, Maryland, will describe their research on young fish in coastal nursery habitats, such as the Delaware Bay and Delaware’s Inland Bays. Under the guidance of their adviser, Timothy E. Targett, professor of marine biology-biochemistry, they are studying the effects of environmental variability and habitat quality on summer flounder and weakfish — two regionally important fish.
Brady and Stierhoff also will give a broad and realistic perspective on other aspects of graduate life from the point of view of a “rookie” and “veteran” graduate student. They hope to dispel the notion that marine science is just about “playing in the mud and swimming with dolphins.”
“My older brother recently asked my mother, ‘When is Kevin going to get a real job?’” says Stierhoff, a third-year student with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from Salisbury State University in Salisbury, Maryland. “But the work I do as a graduate student requires many long hours and intense dedication. It is the epitome of delayed gratification, where months of troubleshooting and hard work are ultimately rewarded with exciting and insightful data.
“For example, I have had to design and construct an elaborate device to monitor and control dissolved oxygen in our laboratory fish tanks,” continues Stierhoff. “This isn’t something that you can just buy over the Internet. And, in addition, my graduate work has given me the opportunity to travel within the United States, the United Kingdom, and as far as Japan to conduct scientific research and attend international research conferences.”
In contrast to most undergraduate work, the graduate student experience is a vital combination of classroom education and hands-on research. Although classes are important, most of the graduate students’ time is consumed by a completely original research project, which is designed by each student.
“Probably the biggest surprise for me has been the emphasis on research compared to classes,” says Brady, a first-year student with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. “Classes become tools to aid your research rather than the make-or-break aspects of your education.”
What does the future hold for Stierhoff and Brady? Both students are keeping their options open, but have aspirations ranging from becoming a university professor to an environmental scientist.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.