One-on-One with SMAST’s Steven E. Lohrenz
Gregory R. Trauthwein
MTR had the opportunity to visit with many colleagues at the recent Oceans2013 MTS/IEEE San Diego conference. Among them was Steve Lohrenz, Dean of the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Steve was there to chair the session on Marine Education and Outreach and to promote the new Professional Science Master’s in Coastal and Ocean Administration, Science and Technology. Steve explained the program in more detail to MTR.
Steve, please tell me a little about your background and what brought you to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology.
Before joining SMAST two years ago, I was Chair and Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi Department of Marine Science, which is located at the John C. Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis. I received my Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography in 1985 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. I joined the University of Southern Mississippi faculty in 1987 and became the chair of the Department of Marine Science in 2004. While my experience at Southern Miss was great, I saw the move to New Bedford as an exciting new opportunity to be part of a growing program with a stellar faculty and a great reputation. It is a fairly new graduate program (15 years old) with an excellent track record. It had a lot of really attractive qualities; specifically, the location cannot be beat. Located along Route 195, it is a hop and a skip to major cities such as Providence, New York and Boston as well as being situated in the heart of the largest cluster of world class research and education institutions and innovative marine technology manufacturers on the globe. This is a very exciting place to be and we have a lot to offer many research and private sector groups nearby and nationally.
Which sectors are you targeting specifically?
SMAST is well recognized for marine fisheries science and management. Proximity to the premier commercial fishing port in the U.S., New Bedford, mandates that UMASSD have strong connections with all facets of the fishing industry. SMAST graduates are working in organizations that address fisheries management, stock assessment and policy. We also have exceptional programs in coastal ecosystem processes, water quality, ocean observation and the use of novel technology for oceanographic observations. Similarly, the SMAST programs in ocean modeling and biogeochemistry are world class.
Isn’t ocean biogeochemistry your research area? Please explain what the study of ocean biogeochemistry is, and what is the thrust of your research?
My field of research uses a combination of satellite technology and optical instrumentation to understand and map the biogeochemistry in the ocean on a wide range of spatial scales, literally from centimeters to kilometers. We are trying to understand how the oceans influence carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. A key to this is understanding the “biological pump,” which is the biologically enhanced ocean uptake of carbon dioxide. We can use satellites and in water instrumentation to determine distributions of carbon and other biogeochemical materials such as chlorophyll associated with phytoplankton, and from that identify regions of high biological activity in different regions which can play an important role in ocean uptake of carbon.
How are you able pursue your research while balancing the myriad administrative and management duties required by your job as dean?
The way I balance the duties of being a dean and a research scientist is by working at at everything 120%, and I have a top notch staff that is terrific. I am also fortunate to have two very bright post doctoral fellows working with me, one from India and the other from China. One is working on understanding changes in communities of phytoplankton (that is, the microscopic plants that dominate the oceans) and how they influence cycling of carbon. The other is exploring methods to interpret the spectral (or color) signatures of ocean waters to derive estimates of different biogeochemical constituents.
How many students are currently enrolled in SMAST programs?
We have about 65 Students and 17 full time faculty members. We also have many other faculty who are part time, adjunct from other universities and organizations, or with other departments or other campuses within the UMass system. SMAST has the largest marine science program in the Intercampus Marine Science (IMS) degree program. The SMAST as a whole, has a student, faculty and administrative population of up to 120 people. The majority of our students are in research intensive, thesis-based M.S. or Ph.D. programs.
Can you talk about your new, non traditional program that is aimed at mid-career or other students seeking a non-thesis alternative?
In response to a growing demand in education to provide mid-career professionals and other students with different education goals with an opportunity to advance their skills, UMassD/SMAST created a Professional Science Master’s in Coastal and Ocean Administration, Science and Technology. This two-year, non-thesis master’s program blends the study of science and engineering with elective courses in management, policy, economics and law, and it provides a strong emphasis on writing and communication skills. The last semester of the program requires that the student obtain an internship in industry, government, non profit or academia.
What students are you targeting, and what sorts of jobs are available for these students?
We started the program two years ago and we have six students currently enrolled. Of course we’d like to double that number by next fall and double it every year afterward until we reach a cohort of about 36 students. These students came to us from industry, right out of college, as well as from other backgrounds. They enrolled because they saw the value of the coursework and its relevance to their current work or career path. Often these students are attending this program while continuing to work and they can do their internship in conjunction with their current job.
There are core courses that are required of each student and they can take a number of electives in other topics to customize their degree. No one PSM student takes all the same courses. There is a lot of flexibility in the courses one can take and one can also attend classes at the other UMass campuses. The current curriculum is a blend of face-to-face classes with a growing list of online course offerings.
How do the students go about locating a place to do an internship?
That is a great question. The idea is that a student can do their internship at work or we will help them locate a place to do an internship in a company or organization that is related to their particular course of study. This is a challenge and that is why we are reaching out to our industry partners, non profit colleagues and government agencies to see if we can pair our students with exciting and relevant internships that will give them some valuable experience and exposure to a new course for their career.
It sounds as if this is a great opportunity for industry to work with the University to provide input on the type of trained employees they need.
Yes, that is true. In addition to helping students get ahead in the workplace we also want to work closely with industry, government and non profits to understand their needs so we can offer courses that will equip existing and future employees to be effective.
Do you think there will be a need for a certain type of employee in the work place?
We have to recognize that the science and technology professional workforce is graying and there is a need for new faces. There is not an adequate pipeline with expertise for the future. There is growing pressure on ocean health, marine transportation, fisheries, coastal development and degradation, impacts of storm events, environmental disasters such as the BP oil spill, the effects of sea level rise, and so on. Providing a skilled workforce in these areas coupled with a vibrant private sector is really what we are working toward.
We understand that SMAST has an ambitious expansion plan that will likely come to fruition in the next 2-5 years.
Yes, you are correct; we have $45 million committed from a combination of a UMass Bond and from the State Department of Capital Asset Management. The plan is to expand the existing site at Clarks Cove in New Bedford onto the adjacent retired Navy Reserve Center site. We are nearing the end of a feasibility study to match space needs with what the funding will allow. We are excited about the prospect of bringing together our faculty and students who are currently split between our New Bedford site and rented space in Fairhaven. In addition, the new facility will represent a transformation of our current site into a comprehensive marine campus with greatly expanded facilities and infrastructure.
School for Marine Science & Technology
Professional Science Master’s Degree (PSM)
Coastal and Ocean Administration, Science and
A new non-thesis Master’s degree that blends science with management, policy or law, with emphasis on writing and communication.
Application Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in one of the basic scientific or engineering disciplines.
Degree Requirements: Completion of eleven 3-credit courses plus a one-credit internship.
Internships can be done at work. Classes are offered on-line, on campus and throughout the UMASS system.
Contact: Louis Goodman, PhD, Associate Dean,
(As published in the October 2013 edition of Marine Technology Reporter - www.seadiscovery.com)