University of South Carolina

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Marine Science: What to Expect

The Marine Sciences major at the University provides students with personal, hands-on learning opportunities that allow many to participate in a multitude of research experiences across the world. As a Marine Sciences major, you will obtain interdisciplinary knowledge in marine sciences as well as core knowledge in an area of emphasis chosen from among biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, physical oceanography, geological oceanography, or coastal resource management and marine policy. You will be exposed to real field experience during a Maymester course where you may spend three full weeks in field research at the Baruch Institute at North Inlet Estuary in Georgetown, SC. The Baruch Institute is an internationally acclaimed research laboratory with the main building of the complex comprising 18 air conditioned research laboratories, a computer center, seminar room, conference-dining room, archived-sample room, classroom, site library, teaching lab, walk-in refrigerators and freezers, large screened work areas, and running seawater with technical and administrative support offices. Back on campus, you will be exposed to challenging coursework with laboratory components. To enhance your educational experience, you will be encouraged to get involved with faculty research projects and participate in activities such as Marine Sciences Seminars and recruiting visits by industry and government organizations.

The following courses fulfill some of the course requirements for a Bachelor of Science with a major in Marine Sciences:

  • Biology of Marine Organisms
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Chemistry of the Sea
  • Field and Laboratory Investigations in Marine Sciences
  • Senior Seminar

There is a 25 to 1 student-faculty ratio in major specific courses. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. Marine Sciences majors frequently study abroad in Australia and New Zealand, although students have also gone to other locations in the Caribbean, Europe, China, and Africa. You will learn key skills while abroad including how to interact with diverse cultures and conduct science under a range of conditions. You will also have the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned scientists from across the world. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Web site for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. As a Marine Sciences major, you are encouraged to get involved in Students Engaged in Aquatic Sciences (SEAS) and MarSci, a research journal for undergraduate-driven marine science research run by students at USC. In SEAS, you will be able to participate in research with a number of trips to the Baruch Institute. You will learn how to use equipment and conduct your own research with faculty. In MarSci, you will learn how to write and edit scientific research papers as well as publish your own data with peer review. You can also get involved in USC Discovery Day, an annual event where students from across campus present their research with winners receiving prize money for placing first through third. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities that relate to your major. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Graduates often attend graduate programs in Marine Sciences and Oceanography. Some go on to attend medical, veterinary, and law school.
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson received USC’s Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award. Dr. Blaine Griffen, Dr. James Pinckney, Dr. Joseph Quattro, Dr. Tammi Richardson, and Dr. Alexandra Yankovsky are known for their research with undergraduates and have mentored a number of students who have won prizes at USC’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, Discovery Day. Dr. Benitez-Nelson was also recently named as one of USC’s rising stars and was given the Freshman Advocate Award.
Departmental Scholarships may be awarded to outstanding entering freshmen or current students. Each year, the Marine Sciences Program offers Marine Sciences Program Undergraduate Scholarships. These may be awarded to current or incoming Marine Sciences majors.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Marine Sciences majors at the University have had a wide range of exciting and unique internship opportunities. Students have experienced a very diverse range of internships including field research in China, Australia, the Arctic, and the Caribbean. Marine Sciences majors at the University have had internships at some of the top Marine Sciences Research institutions in the country such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Students have also landed internship opportunities with the Navy, at SeaWorld training dolphins, and in Washington D.C. helping write marine science legislation.

Student Spotlight

Summer break was not a break from learning for Marine Sciences major Erin Fedewa. Erin was one of ten students chosen for the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.  During her time at the Duke Marine Lab, Erin spent her time extracting DNA, polymerase chain reactions, sequencing, and editing DNA. “I learned many research techniques and procedures in the field of molecular biology. I also learned more about genetics within populations, specifically conservation genetics,” Erin said. Her experiences at the University helped prepare her for her research experience while at the Duke Marine Lab. “Coursework gave me a solid background on the material being studied,” she said. “I also had experience in a lab from my undergraduate research at USC.” In addition to specific techniques related to her research, Erin learned how to organize and present her data to others. She also gained additional knowledge through seminars and graduate student panels. Erin offers some advice to current students interested in pursuing a research or internship experience. “Get good grades, be active in the community and on campus, and establish relationships with faculty,” she said. Erin also received a 2010 NOAA Hollings scholarship and was selected as a 2011 Udall Scholar.

Career Opportunities

Marine Sciences majors often seek careers as scientific researchers. Graduates also seek work with NASA, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as in private firms, including environmental and oil and gas. A number of graduates have also gone on to pursue teaching at the middle and high school level.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the Marine Sciences Program

The Marine Sciences Program has over 30 internationally recognized faculty and is a highly regarded center of research and teaching excellence at the University. Our dives and collaborative program provides students with award winning instruction and hands-on technical and field experiences that allow them to successfully pursue careers in industry, government, and academic settings. The program offers a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Marine Sciences. The program has received numerous rankings over the years and provides students with a multitude of opportunities to participate in research experiences across the world. The Marine Sciences Program is in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Points of Pride

  • Five Marine Sciences majors at USC were named 2011 Hollings Scholars. This is one of the top fellowships for Marine Sciences undergraduates in the country.
  • Two Marine Science majors at USC were named 2011 Udall Scholars.  This prestigious national award is presented to students involved with environmentally related  science.  (http://www.cas.sc.edu/dean/news/2011/0404-udall.html)
  • The Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences provides a research focus for marine sciences at the University. Field study projects are regularly conducted at the Baruch Institute, which is on Hobcaw Barony, north of Georgetown, S.C.
  • We are ranked 6th in the nation in faculty productivity in marine biology and biological oceanography by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2006.
  • Three Marine Sciences faculty members were named 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellows and two were named 2009 Fellows of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
  • Over one-third of Marine Sciences majors were named to the Dean’s or President List in 2011.  
  • Three Marine Sciences faculty members were nominated for the 2010 Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award and one faculty member was named as one of USC’s inaugural Rising Stars.
Additional Resources.
Marine Sciences Program Website
College of Arts and Sciences Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin