M.S. & Ph.D. Research and Funding Opportunities

Some of the research and funding opportunities for Fall 2022 applicants are highlighted below. Clicking on the topic of interest will give you additional details and a link to the sponsoring faculty member. If you don't see an opportunity below, it just means that you will need to contact individual VIMS faculty directly to learn about opportunities in their research group.  Tip: When contacting faculty, it helps if you provide a succinct overview of your qualifications and interests and state clearly why you are interested in a particular faculty member's program.

Evaluating production constraints and consumer demand in an emerging blue catfish fishery

Blue catfish is an invasive species of growing management concern found in fresh and estuarine waters in the Chesapeake Bay. A small commercial fishery has developed over the last two decades, yet the resource is considered underexploited. This project will use surveys of fishers and seafood consumers, focus groups with post-harvest industry members, and econometric data analyses to quantitatively evaluate factors constraining development of a successful commercial fishery for this harmful invasive species. Research will involve collaboration and consultation with a diverse group of stakeholders including: commercial and recreational fishers, fish processors and dealers, seafood consumers, and fishery managers. 

The ideal candidate should have experience with statistics and quantitative data analysis, strong written communication skills, and an interest in fisheries management. Prospective M.S. and Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply.

Contact Dr. Andrew Scheld directly with your interest and inquiries.

Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting

Dr. Marjy Friedrichs is recruiting prospective M.S. or Ph.D. students interested in using mathematical models and statistical analyses to study environmental conditions that lead to harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay. This position is supported by a multi-institutional NOAA-funded project focused on generating HAB forecasts for stakeholders and coastal managers in the region. Preference will be given to students with an interdisciplinary science background including college-level courses in physics, math, and computer science, as well as biology and chemistry. Some experience with coding in MATLAB, R, Python, or other programming languages will be an asset. We particularly encourage members from diverse backgrounds to apply, as we continue to strive to promote the contributions of under-represented groups in the marine sciences.

Contact Dr. Marjy Friedrichs directly with your interests and inquiries. 

Observational study of mesoscale and submesoscale dynamics in the Western and North Atlantic

Dr. Donglai Gong is seeking one or two M.S. or Ph.D. students to join the Coastal & Polar Physical Oceanography lab. The student(s) will be directly involved in two projects that will utilize underwater gliders to study mesoscale and submesoscale ocean dynamics and their impact on ocean acoustics in the Western Atlantic and in the North Atlantic. The first study focuses on a 100km x 100km region over a seamount along the path of the Gulf Stream. Working with other project partners, a fleet of gliders will be deployed for a period of up to a month to collect physical oceanographic and acoustic data. The second study will be in the Nordic Seas between Iceland and Norway. We will be deploying a single glider with current profiler and turbulence sensors to study upper ocean submesoscale dynamics. This is part of a larger team that will investigate the impact of energetic atmospheric events and oceanic fronts on upper ocean acoustic propagation. The student(s) will be involved in fieldwork, data processing, data analysis, and publications.

The ideal candidate should have a strong background in math, physics, engineering and/or data science. The candidate will be expected to work/communicate effectively and professionally as part of a larger team and go to sea to conduct fieldwork. The student should have a strong interest in pursuing a career in physical oceanography. Prospective M.S. and Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply.

Contact Dr. Donglai Gong directly with your interest and inquiries. 

Sediment Transport: Coupled Numerical Models

Sediment processes such as erosion, deposition, and suspended transport impact water quality in shallow water systems such as estuaries and continental shelves.  Numerical models provide a means of quantifying the impact of sediment transport on issues such as contaminant transport, and nutrient cycling. We seek multiple M.S. or Ph.D. students whose research will focus on applying numerical sediment transport models to address water quality issues in estuarine environments. Numerical model development and applications will use the COAWST (Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport) modeling system, and the sediment transport routines within ROMS (the Regional Ocean Modeling System). These graduate students will work within Dr. Courtney Harris’ group at VIMS and participate in collaborations with researchers from numerous other institutions.

The ideal candidates will have strong backgrounds in mathematics, physics, and computer applications such as MATLAB, python, and scientific programming.  Experience with numerical ocean models, marine science, and strong communications skills is advantageous. Support for these research assistantships is available from projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Contact Dr. Courtney Harris directly with your interest and inquiries. 

SCHISM Modeling System

Dr. Joseph Zhang’s group is the lead developer of large community model SCHISM, a widely used unstructured-grid based 3D tool for simulating complex flow in ocean, estuary, and rivers, including ecosystem and pollutant transport processes. Dr. Zhang is looking for a few highly qualified M.S. or Ph.D. candidates to join his rapidly growing team and work on developing or applying this cutting-edge next-generation model. Sponsorships come from a variety of domestic and international agencies and industries (including NOAA, EU agencies, etc.), and ongoing research projects are stimulating, ranging from compound flooding processes in the US and Japan to water quality issues in Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay & Delta and European Seas.

Ideal candidates will need to possess solid analytical and quantitative skills in mathematics (numerical methods, data analysis), fluid dynamics, and potentially high-performance computing that underpins the modern supercomputing infrastructure. Past graduate students were highly sought after by academia, government agencies, or private industry before the time of graduation. Prospective M.S. and Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply.

Contact Dr. Joseph Zhang directly with your interest and inquiries. 

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Contact Information and Mailing Address for Application Materials
Office of Academic Studies - Admissions
Gloucester Point, VA 23062  USA
e-mail: Office of Academic Studies - Admissions
Telephone: (804) 684-7105
Fax: (804) 684-7881