PSM - Research Project
Marine Biology PSM students conduct a research project (but not a formal thesis) during their tenure in the program. During Year 2, PSM students return to the Marine Science Center in Nahant during the first week of December to present their research in a 15 minute talk (similar to at a scientific conference) and submit a journal-style research paper.
Time Frame: In the first few years of this program the vast majority of students conducted research in either the winter (now Panama) or spring (now Friday Harbor) portion of the program, with several of these projects resulting in publications (Heinlein et al., 2010; Matassa, 2010; Shantz et al., 2011). However, over time students found they could produce a more comprehensive and publishable product by conducting their research project in conjunction with their internship.
The majority of our students now complete their research project during their internship, although this is not an absolute requirement. If students pursue an internship where there is no opportunity to complete a research project it is important for them to secure this internship by the end of the fall or winter semester so they can conduct research during the two remaining academic portions of the program. Alternatively, they can conduct a research project during their internship which is not affiliated with their internship sponsor. In these cases the internship sponsor and student will need to arrive at a workable situation. MSC faculty will often serve as research advisors in these situations.
Students should be sure to consider the differences in length of time and ease of field access between the Panama and Friday Harbor semesters (Panama: 10 weeks, easy field access. Friday Harbor: 8 weeks, less easy field access). Conducting a research project during the Panama or Friday Harbor portions of the program will dictate that students a) have less time to devote to their studies, b) may have virtually no free time, and c) may experience high levels of stress as they attempt to meet these multiple demands on their time.
Research Scope: When conducting a research project in conjunction with their internship advisor, students may work solely on their research project, or they may also assist with other activities associated with their internship. This is determined on a case-by-case basis between the student and their advisor. Student research may be independent or directed, with the understanding that students are ultimately responsible for presenting the research talk, and submitting the research paper described above.
Funding: The PSM program can provide up to $650 in funding to students during their internship. This can be used for supplies, travel, or presentation of their research at a scientific meeting (e.g. Benthic Ecology Meetings the following spring).
Research paper: During the Fall semester of the second year, Professional MS in Marine Biology students submit a 10-20 page (text) research paper that includes the classic components of a research article, including: an abstract, an introduction with an extensive review of the literature, materials and methods, results (with statistical analysis), a fully developed discussion, and literature cited.
Oral presentation: During the Fall semester of their second year, students enrolled in the Professional MS Degree Program present a 15 minute seminar; 12 minutes in length, followed by 3 minutes of questions. This typically occurs on the 2nd Friday after Thanksgiving.
The independent research project has been an optional, yet integral part of the Three Seas Program since its inception in 1983: over the ensuing two decades, the training afforded by the research option has been one of the features distinguishing the Three Seas Program from competing experiential education programs. Previous research projects have resulted in several publications in peer-reviewed journals. The research project is an important aspect of the Professional Masters Degree because it demonstrates that students can perform the entire suite of skills needed to traverse the path from scientific inquiry to synthesis of findings.