VIMS welcomes new class of graduate students

  • Matriculating Class 2015
    Matriculating Class 2015   VIMS' Incoming Class (L to R): Fei Da, Shanna Williamson, Luke Bassett, Elisabeth Clyne, Jingwei Song, Lauren Huey, Xun Cai, Dan Crear, Julie Krask, Gail Schwieterman, Taylor Goelz, Savannah Michaelsen, Olivia Phillips, Bethany Williams, Karinna Nunez, Dan Coleman, and Diego Biston Vaz. Not pictured: AJ Johnson, Joseph Matt, Kristen Omori, Haixing Wang.   Photo by Erin Fryer
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The Virginia Institute of Marine Science welcomed 21 new graduate students to its Gloucester Point campus this week, bringing overall enrollment in William & Mary’s School of Marine Science to 88 students.

Carefully selected from this year’s pool of applicants, the incoming class includes 14 master’s degree students and 7 doctoral students. While 6 students hail from Virginia, 11 are from out-of-state, and 4 come to VIMS from international locations.

Professor Linda Schaffner, Associate Dean of Academic Studies at VIMS, reports that selection of this year’s class was highly competitive. “The selected students are extremely talented individuals,” she says. “The incoming class brings a wealth of research experience and academic knowledge that will further enrich the graduate program at VIMS.”

While each student brings an impressive repertoire of academic accomplishments, their personal accomplishments are as diverse as their research interests. All have research experience and many have traveled the world—from Japan to the Turks and Caicos—to conduct their studies.

“Members of the incoming class have authored or co-authored a dozen scientific articles, and many have participated in the most selective undergraduate programs offered for STEM students nationwide,” says Schaffner.

Research experience and academic excellence
  • Luke Bassett, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, worked as a research assistant in three different labs while completing his undergraduate studies.
  • Diego Biston Vaz conducted research for his master’s degree in the U.S., London, Germany, Japan, and France. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Biston Vaz earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Sao Paulo.
  • Xun “Nicole” Cai, who comes to VIMS from Nanjing University, completed fieldwork in the Yangtze River estuary and Taiwan Shoal as an undergraduate.
  • Elisabeth Clyne, a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, completed a two-week-long astronomy program with the Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy (CUREA) at the Mount Wilson Observatory and an internship focusing on near-earth asteroids at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Daniel Coleman comes to VIMS from Tulane University. As an undergrad, he completed an REU internship at Louisiana Universities’ Marine Consortium, a Euroscholars Program at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and a NOAA Hollings Scholar Program during summer 2014 at the Atlantic Oceanic and Meteorological Lab in Miami. He won first prize for his poster at a symposium hosted by NOAA.
  • Daniel Crear comes to VIMS from California State University-Long Beach where he collaborated with NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service on a project to capture and tag green sea turtles as a part of his Master’s thesis.
  • Fei Da, a graduate of Nanjing University in China, completed an internship at the Second Institute of Oceanography in China, and participated in two projects sponsored by the Chinese National Undergraduate Innovation Program.
  • Taylor Goelz was awarded the Alice B. Hayes Women in Science Scholarship while completing her undergrad at the University of San Diego, which partially funded her research during 2013 at the Center for Coastal Marine Resource Studies focusing on conch middens in the Turks and Caicos. Goelz also served as a research assistant on a NOAA-funded project at the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station studying coral reefs.
  • Lauren Huey, a graduate of Rutgers University, completed a REU internship at Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory studying the ecology of oysters.
  • Andrew Johnson completed his Master’s at VIMS and is continuing in pursuit of his doctorate. Johnson completed a one-year internship at the University of Bremen in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals before matriculating at VIMS, and has since traveled to Australia to begin planning his field sites for his doctoral research.
  • Julie Krask, a graduate of William & Mary, served as a summer research fellow at the National Cancer Institute in 2013 and 2014, and was also selected to conduct a groundwater project at VIMS during her time as an undergraduate.
  • Joseph Matt, a former REU student at VIMS and—until recently—a Tetraploid Technologist employed by the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at VIMS, completed his undergrad at Wake Forest University. Matt was recently awarded a VASG Fellowship to support his studies.
  • Savannah Michaelsen received her master’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University before coming to VIMS to pursue her doctorate. Michaelsen served as a volunteer scientist with NOAA and worked on the R/V Oregon II during summer 2012 while completing her undergrad at the University of Southern Mississippi. She also worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries to determine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the genetic structure of red drum.
  • Karinna Nunez earned her master’s degree at VIMS and serves as a GIS Analyst in the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS where she has completed projects for NOAA and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  • Kristen Omori earned her master’s degree at VIMS after graduating from the University of Washington. Omori has worked for the U.S. Geological Survey on a project in Seattle, has conducted research in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean on coral reef surveying in artisanal islands fisheries, and has performed surveys on spotted eagle rays and juvenile blacktip sharks in Florida.
  • Olivia Phillips, a graduate of North Carolina State University, studied oyster density during a summer fellowship at The Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in North Carolina.
  • Gail Schwieterman, a graduate of Oberlin College, completed a research assistantship at MOTE Marine Lab and received a Watson Fellowship that facilitated her work in Southern Africa, Coast Rica, and Ecuador. She also received a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship that will support her graduate studies.
  • Jingwei Song comes to VIMS from Wabash College in Indiana but is originally from Shanghai, China. Song was a REU student at VIMS in 2014, and a research intern at Purdue University in 2013.
  • Haixing “Daniel” Wang will complete his master’s at VIMS this fall, and will subsequently begin pursuing his doctorate. Wang’s research focuses on underwater gliders, and he previously worked as a hull designer and project manager at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co. before coming to VIMS.
  • Bethany Williams comes to VIMS from Florida State University where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and completed a REU internship at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA in 2014 where she worked with new VIMS faculty member David Johnson.
  • Shanna Williamson attended Skidmore College as an undergraduate and completed an internship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that ultimately led to a research associate position that she held until she arrived at VIMS to pursue her master’s.
The School of Marine Science at VIMS

The School of Marine Science at VIMS is one of five graduate and professional schools at William and Mary. The program awarded its first master’s degree in 1943, first Ph.D. in 1968, and more than 1,000 degrees total. Graduate studies and research opportunities are offered in marine science, oceanography, fisheries and marine policy.

VIMS graduates occupy leading roles in academia, government, and industry. VIMS grads head up the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Science, the Virginia Seafood Council, the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, one of the leading environmental consulting and engineering firms in the northeastern U.S., and the Smithsonian’s new Ocean Hall, among many other leadership positions.