Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Field experience is critical in every MIT/WHOI Joint Program student’s education, but getting out of the lab can be expensive and difficult without federal grants to pay the way. Funding from The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation made it possible for students Anna Wargula and Deepak Cherian to see first-hand what it takes to successfully gather the types of data they’ve been working with for years in the lab. Anna Wargula, an ocean engineering student, spent the fall of 2013 in Duck, North Carolina, deploying pressure gauges and current meters in a wave forcing study directed by WHOI Physical Oceanographer Britt Raubenheimer. While Wargula was involved in planning arrays and data quality control in the lab, she had never seen the instruments at work in the crashing waves along the coast.

“Anna’s expertise for future work will include working with field observations,” Raubenheimer said. “Obtaining field experience has been valuable for her research and will increase her career options.”

For Wargula, time in the surf gave her insight into the pressures of coping with unpredictable weather, equipment breakdowns and even tiredness and fatigue.

The experience will help her as she pursues her research focus of understanding wave and current patterns in rivers, she said.

“A lot can change very quickly, so just knowing what could change physically in those systems helps you know what to expect in the data,” Wargula said. “I never got to experience the start-to-finish frustration and late night ‘I hope this works!’ feeling before [this].”

Securing a berth on a research ship can be even more difficult for a student without a grant to pay for days at sea. Vetlesen Foundation funds also helped physical oceanography student Deepak Cherian travel to Sri Lanka in 2013, where he volunteered on a research cruise to study sharp frontal systems in the Bay of Bengal. While he was a world away from his research focus of eddy interactions with the continental shelf waters of New England, he learned how seasoned researchers deploy some of the same tools he will use for his own research as his career progresses.

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