Jun 15, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

School of Marine Science and Policy

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School of Marine Science and Policy (MS, PhD)

University of Delaware
Office of the Director
204 Cannon Lab
700 Pilottown Road
Lewes, DE 19958
Phone: (302) 645-4212
Fax: (302) 645-4007


About the School of Marine Science and Policy

The School of Marine Science and Policy (SMSP) is an academic unit of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). The broad mission of the School is to advance knowledge and education critical to the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments. The School has an internationally recognized faculty and offers exciting educational and research opportunities for graduate students interested in all areas of marine science and policy.

Our Academic Programs

Encompassing programs in Marine Bioscience, Marine Policy, Oceanography, and Physical Ocean Science and Engineering, the curriculum of SMSP’s programs are multidisciplinary, and students are encouraged to explore areas outside of their own specialties. Faculty members interact with students through formal courses and through the conduct of research. SMSP is ranked among the top institutions for marine education and research in the United States, and research contracts total more than $12 million per year. Financial support for graduate students includes research assistantships associated with individual faculty research projects and competitive fellowships provided by SMSP.

SMSP Facilities

Facilities are located on the Sharp Campus at the mouth of Delaware Bay in Lewes Delaware and in Robinson Hall and Lammot du Pont Laboratory building on the main campus in Newark. The School’s facilities are the home to over a dozen research centers, covering a broad range of topics from Environmental Genomics to Carbon-free Power Integration.

The Sharp Campus is home port for the 146-foot R/V Hugh R. Sharp, the most advanced coastal research vessel in the United States. It is also home port for our small boat fleet including our newest addition, the 47-foot R/V Joanne Daiber. The R/V Daiber is designed for both instruction and research in the local waterways, the bay, and out to the shelf break. The 64-acre Sharp Campus also features 70,000 square feet of modern laboratory, classroom, and office space in Cannon and Smith Laboratories. The School also provides housing for up to 90 graduate and undergraduate students in residence at Sharp Campus.

Our Mission and Learning Goals

The Mission Statement for the SMSP is to advance knowledge and education critical to the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments. The curricula of the academic programs in the SMSP are multidisciplinary and encompass the fields of Marine Biosciences, Marine Policy, Oceanography, and Physical Ocean Science and Engineering. Students are encouraged to explore areas outside of their own specialties.

The faculty of the SMSP has defined seven learning goals consistent with this Mission Statement. Students will:

  1. Identify or define a research question.
  2. Understand and synthesize literature material.
  3. Design and execute a research study or experiment.
  4. Critically evaluate and interpret the outcome.
  5. Write for peer review publications.
  6. Present in professional and public forums.
  7. Perform in collaborative work groups.

The specific learning goals stated above are linked to courses administered by the four academic programs in the SMSP, and achievement of these goals is assessed through multiple methods including:

  • Exams
  • Term Project(s) / Paper(s)
  • Laboratory Report(s)
  • Oral Presentation(s)
  • Problem Based Learning
  • Problem Sets
  • Case Studies

A curriculum map for each academic program, which links the learning goals to the various courses and learning opportunities offered through the SMSP, can be found on the SMSP web page.


Admission to the graduate programs of the School is based on GRE scores, grade point averages, letters of recommendation, and other appropriate information. Prospective students apply online through the University Office of Professional and Graduate Education.

Subsequent evaluation of the applications for Master of Science (MS), Master of Marine Policy (MMP), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is conducted by the respective Associate Directors in consultation with relevant faculty members. The Associate Director forwards a recommendation for admission to the Director, who makes final decisions concerning admission.

International students are also required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), to be considered for admission.  A minimum score 95 must be achieved by applicants taking the TOEFL IBT exam. No exceptions will be made to this minimum.  The IELTS may not be taken in lieu of the TOEFL exam.

Before qualified applicants are admitted to the School, a specific faculty member must be identified as the primary advisor for the admitted applicant. The Director appoints the faculty advisor pro tem; at the initiative of faculty or applicant, the advisor may be changed. When an appropriate advisor cannot be identified, the relevant Associate Director acts as the point of contact for the applicant regarding academic issues.

Policies for Matriculated Students:

All degrees except the Master of Marine Policy require a thesis or dissertation describing original work completed by the student.

Graduate work must be completed within the time limits imposed by the University and the SMSP. The SMSP provides guidance for students with regard to the time frame in achieving individual academic milestones as listed below:

All students matriculated into the SMSP will have their milestone achievements tracked in the SMSP Graduate Student Database.  Each year during the faculty performance review with the SMSP Director, the milestone achievement and academic progress of each SMSP student advisee will be discussed and appropriate notes about progress will be updated into the student’s file. Students who are significantly overdue on their milestone achievements and have been notified must submit (jointly with their advisor) a justification of why they are out of compliance and a detailed plan an timeline for completion of the remaining milestones. In the case of University time limits, all requests must be approved by the SMSP Director and then the University Office of Graduate and Professional Education.

A Ph.D. committee must consist of at least four members, but not more than six. At least one member of the committee must be a core faculty member of the SMSP and at least half of the committee members must be either core or joint faculty in the School. As per University regulations, at least one member of the committee must be external to the School, and students are “encouraged to seek the external member from outside the University in order to broaden the perspectives of the committee.”

An MS or MMP committee must consist of at least three members, but no more than four. At least one member of the committee must be a core faculty member of the School and at least half of the committee members must be core or joint faculty in the SMSP.

Only core or joint appointees may serve as committee chairs, except in the case of an emeritus professor who has, prior to retirement, been the advisor of a student when that student’s committee was formed.

A dissertation proposal is required to obtain admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. Satisfactory completion of dissertation proposal is at the discretion of the advisor in consultation with the student’s advisory committee. The dissertation proposal may be included as part of the written qualifying exam (below) at the discretion of the advisor in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

  • A qualifying examination is required to obtain admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. In order to take the examination, each student must be in good academic standing and have approval of the advisory committee. A research proposal is ordinarily required before a student takes the qualifying examination. The dissertation proposal and the qualifying examination are to be completed before the fifth semester, however because of workload it is advised that either the proposal or the qualifying exam be completed during the third semester.
  • The qualifying examination must include both oral and written sections.
  • The examination is prepared and administered by the advisor in consultation with the student’s advisory committee At least 60 days prior to the examination, the advisor must inform the student of the areas to be examined and the format of the written and oral parts of the examination. If the student is not notified with at least 60 days notice, the student has the option to petition the School Director for a postponement of the qualifying examination.
  • The student must be informed of success or failure of the written portion of the qualifying examination within two weeks of completion and if the written component is not successfully satisfied the oral may not be administered. Once the written component is satisfied, the oral component may be administered. The student must be informed of success or failure of the oral portion of the qualifying exam within two weeks of completion.
  • A student who fails either part of the qualifying examination is entitled to only one re-examination, which must be taken within six months of the first examination.
  • A student who fails either part of the second qualifying examination may be considered for reclassification as a Master’s student only after advisory committee consultation with the School Director. If a student is reclassified in this situation, the Master’s thesis must follow the same rigor outlined in this policy statement. In some cases, if recommended by the committee and the School Director, the student may be terminated from the program.
  • The defense of the dissertation, thesis, and analytical paper focuses on the scope of the research and its contribution to the field.
  • The student’s advisory committee serves as the examining board.
  • The defense is oral and open to the academic community of the University and to interested members of the public; the defense must be announced at least two weeks in advance.
  • The defense begins with a presentation of the work by the candidate, followed by an open period of questions from the audience.
  • After a short break, the members of the examining board address questions to the candidate.
  • At the close of questioning, the examining board retires for deliberation and decision.
  • Upon reaching a decision, the board communicates that decision to the candidate and to the Director of the School.
  • Dissertations, theses, and analytical papers must be submitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education according to the deadline schedule published by that office.

Change in Student Status

A student may change advisor in consultation with the assigned advisor and the potential advisor. The relevant Associate Director and the Academic Coordinator of the SMSP must be informed of the change.

Students who have formed a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Marine Policy (MMP) advisory committee and who have completed a thesis proposal may petition for admission to a PhD program within three semesters of matriculation in the School. This is known as the bypass option. Petitioning students must submit evidence of high performance to the M.S. or MMP advisory committee. Ordinarily this evidence includes excellent grades in graduate courses, promising research results, and sound plans for dissertation research.

The following steps are necessary for approval of a bypass petition:

  1. Chair of MS or MMP advisory committee sends a letter of support of behalf of committee to relevant Associate Director.
  2. Associate Director forwards approved letter to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Services and the Director of the SMSP.
  3. Director of SMSP approves bypass.
  4. The student submits completed “Change of Classification” form to Assistant Dean for Graduate Services which must be signed and forwarded to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education.
  5. Student continues as a PhD student.

Students who wish to continue for a PhD after completing an MS or MMP must submit a letter of intent to the relevant Associate Director. The letter should outline dissertation research plans and specify an advisor and funding source. The Associate Director will review the applicant’s credentials and consult with faculty members as required. The Associate Director will forward a recommendation concerning admission to the Director of the SMSP. The Director will act on this recommendation and if approved, the student must submit a completed “Change of Classification” form to Assistant Dean for Graduate Services. This form must be signed and forwarded to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education.

Competency of SMSP graduates

A recipient of a PhD from the University of Delaware must have the analytical skills and intellectual scholarship to perform research with independent creativity. This criterion is demonstrated by the submission of a written dissertation of original research. Furthermore, it is expected as part of the Ph.D. that the thesis, or portions thereof, be published in one or more articles in an internationally recognized and refereed journal or equivalent medium. Going through this process will demonstrate the student’s ability to communicate their results to the larger community and, as a result, gain wider recognition of their work.

A written thesis is required for the MS, and an analytical paper is required for the MMP. The depth and breadth of these documents are more limited than a dissertation and reflect a more focused and restricted exposure to research and analysis, yet must still demonstrate analytical skills and intellectual scholarship to perform research. Students are expected to produce work worthy of publication in a refereed journal and are encouraged in consultation with their advisor to submit their work for publication.

Changes in Requirements

Any change in academic requirements requires approval of the Directors Council of the SMSP. The Council has the authority to determine when a vote of the entire faculty of the SMSP is necessary to effect a change in requirements. Notice of the proposed change must be sent to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education to be approved by the Graduate Committee and the Graduate Faculty Senate Committee.

Marine Biosciences (MS,PhD)

Telephone: (302) 645-4212 (SMSP main number), (302) 645-4362 (SMSP Associate Director for Marine Biosciences), WebsiteFaculty Profiles

Program Overview

Students in the Marine Biosciences Program are exposed to a broad spectrum of modern approaches to understand the organization and function of biological systems in marine environments. The Program is highly integrative and students are exposed to a wide range of subjects in their course work and research projects, from molecular biology and biochemistry to ecology and ecosystem studies. Areas of faculty interest within the program span the ecology, physiology, genetics, and molecular biology of plants, animals, and microbes. Faculty research specializations are particularly concentrated in: microbial physiology and molecular ecology; larval ecology and molecular biology; chemical ecology; fisheries ecology; aquacultural genetics and genomics; wetland restoration. In addition to the sophisticated classroom and laboratory facilities available, students enjoy ready access to a variety of marine ecosystems near the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes: dunes, salt marshes, mudflats, estuaries, and the Atlantic Ocean. Field research takes place from the Arctic to the Antarctic, in environments ranging from coral reefs to deep-sea hydrothermal vents, to local salt marshes and coastal waters.

Requirements For Admission

Please see the Admissions requirements for the School of Marine Science and Policy for specifics.

Marine Policy (MMP, PhD)

Telephone: (302) 645-4212 (SMSP main number), (302) 831-6891 (SMSP Associate Director for Marine Policy), WebsiteFaculty Profiles

Program Overview

The Marine Policy Program examines the economic, legal, political, and social aspects of the world ocean, the seabed, and the coastal zone. Students and faculty in the program analyze public issues regarding the law of the sea, ports and shipping, marine minerals, ocean and coastal zone management, fisheries, naval affairs, marine biotechnology, and the global environment, frequently making recommendations for policy at the regional, national, and international level.

The Master of Marine Policy prepares students for careers in research, management, and administration in marine-oriented government agencies, private associations, and business firms. For a few highly qualified students who already hold an advanced degree in marine policy or a related subject and who generally have some experience in policy research or management, the PhD in Marine (Policy) Studies concentration is available.

Requirements For Admission

Please see the Admissions requirements for the School of Marine Science and Policy for specifics.

Oceanography (MS, PhD)

Telephone: (302) 645-4212 (SMSP main number), (302) 831-6891 (SMSP Associate Director for Marine Policy), WebsiteFaculty Profiles

Program Overview

Oceanography Program faculty and students conduct research on physical, geological, biological, and chemical problems in estuarine, coastal, and marine environments. Historically, the program’s focus has been estuarine, coastal, and continental shelf studies in the Mid-Atlantic region. Our research studies have made the nearby Delaware, Chesapeake, and Delmarva Coastal Bays some of the most extensively studied estuaries in the world. In addition, faculty and students have had increasing interests in issues related to global environmental change in a number of other regions of the world.

Estuarine waters, salt marshes, and sediments provide ideal sites for work on the cycling of particulate material, trace metals, nutrients, and organic matter. An integrated picture of contrasting estuarine behavior is emerging from studies of circulation, chemistry, sedimentary geology, and planktonic biology in these contrasting environments. Faculty and students investigate topics at scales as large as paleohistorical circulation patterns, and as small as chemical cycles in algal mats. Multidisciplinary studies of the hydrology and ecology of intertidal groundwater seepage and the controls of harmful and noxious algal blooms are also explored. Together with the Center for Remote Sensing, faculty and students study the impact of land-use changes on wetlands and estuarine waters and the effects of oceanic circulation on climate. The Oceanography Program fosters an environment where a diverse faculty and student body work together to understand marine and environmental processes in the interest of solving environmental and societal problems.

Requirements For Admission

Please see the Admissions requirements for the School of Marine Science and Policy for specifics.

Physical Ocean Science and Engineering (MS, PhD)

Telephone: (302) 645-4212 (SMSP main number), (302) 831-6891 (SMSP Associate Director for Marine Policy), WebsiteFaculty Profiles

Program Overview

Students in the Physical Ocean Science and Engineering (POSE) Program apply basic physical principals in their research in coastal physical oceanography, ocean acoustics, nearshore processes, environmental fluid dynamics, estuarine dynamics, and ocean engineering. Two degree plans are offered. The Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Studies are offered through the College Earth, Ocean, & Environment. The Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Ocean Engineering are offered through a cross-disciplinary program operated jointly by the CEOE and the College of Engineering. (See the Ocean Engineering section in the College of Engineering for specific degree ).

This multidisciplinary academic program provides students with broad knowledge in physical oceanography as well as opportunities to focus on desired areas of expertise. The program is particularly appropriate for students with physics, mathematics, or engineering backgrounds.

Requirements For Admission

Please see the Admissions requirements for the School of Marine Science and Policy for specifics.



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