Ocean Sciences

Alumni Profiles

Erica Key, PhD '04

Who was your advisor at the Rosenstiel School and what kind of research did you do?

I earned my Master’s degree with Dr. Arthur Mariano and completed a PhD and postdoc with Dr. Peter Minnett, all in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography.  While my master’s focused more on complex statistical analysis and my PhD was in the areas of remote sensing and radiative transfer, the two degrees were united in their study of highly forced systems.

For my master’s I focused on the Southwest Monsoon in the Arabian Sea, looking at biophysical and biogeochemical signals of the Great Whirl, upwelling wedges, subsurface eddies, and the Somali-Omani Current System. My doctoral work investigated the role of clouds in Arctic polynya formation and maintenance.  Both research areas required data and expertise from different disciplines and allowed me the opportunity to work with colleagues in Marine Biology and Fisheries, Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry, and Applied Marine Physics as well as collaborators at NOAA, abroad, and on ship.

What have you been doing since graduation and what are you up to now?

I’ve continued to learn from other disciplines and perspectives, as a researcher and in management, to better develop system approaches to key science questions. I’ve also benefited from working in university and government settings, both in the US and overseas, to understand the different motivations for and requirements of scientific research. Serving as a program director at NSF and US lead for arctic observing systems gave me an in-depth appreciation for review and funding processes, strategic and budgetary planning, and facilitating partnerships between agencies, NGO’s, non-profits, and industry.

This diverse experience led me to my most recent position as Executive Director of the Belmont Forum Secretariat. The Forum is a partnership of international scientific funding agencies that support research to inform human action and adaptation to global environmental change. Multi-national projects funded in Belmont calls require the integrated expertise of natural scientists, social scientists, and stakeholders in a co-developed research plan. The Secretariat is currently engaged in a number of collaborative research actions including the implementation of an open data policy that will improve information exchange for decision-making support.

What do you remember most about your time at the Rosenstiel School?

The RSMAS community was like a second family during my time there. The faculty, staff, and students were very welcoming and supported me greatly through my studies and postdoc. It didn’t matter whether you needed help with a GFD problem, writing a Perl script, moving computers and furniture for an approaching hurricane, or fixing a flat bike tire, someone was always willing to lend a hand. I came to understand how exceptional that support was as I ventured further afield.

We worked very hard and played hard as well at RSMAS. I still stay in touch with many of my RSMAS colleagues and occasionally reminisce about the “old days” at meetings. I will always have fond memories of sharing a drink and conversation at the RSMAS bar, watching the snook rise around the dock at sunset, quite literally running to Jimbo’s, and gunkholing around the upper Keys. Virginia Key was an exceptional place to learn and to build community.

How did your time at the Rosenstiel School help prepare you for your life and/or career today?

While at RSMAS, I was given unrivaled opportunities to conduct at-sea research and attend workshops and colloquia that enriched my studies. The faculty supported my interdisciplinary projects at a time when integrated science was not the norm. I had my first glimpses of societally relevant research, citizen science, and stakeholder engagement through conversations with colleagues in Marine Affairs and Policy. And there was a level of autonomy granted to me to lead projects and test ideas that helped me become an independent researcher after graduation.

I value the flexibility that RSMAS and my advisors afforded me to build a broad base of scientific and technological understanding, to access instruments and expertise that were sometimes far afield, and to experience the challenges and serendipitous moments of real-world oceangoing research. It was both the support and the striving that made me a viable candidate for research and management positions in my postgraduate career.

I continue to explore, to seek new partnerships to advance understanding, and appreciate the diversity of perspectives that together make scientific research robust and rewarding. I know that all that I’ve accomplished and will accomplish has its roots in my RSMAS foundation.

 

 

Marcello Gatimu Magaldi, PhD '09

Who was your advisor at the Rosenstiel School and what kind of research did you do?

My advisor was Dr. Tamay Özgökmen and my PhD research dealt with the circulation and dynamics near capes. Namely, it assessed the conditions under which different flow regimes and turbulent coherent structures appear in proximity of capes and headlands. These structures and regimes affect the dispersion of dissolved pollutants, floating organisms, nutrients, and sediments. From a dynamical perspective, they result in enhanced mixing, drag, and dissipation. We performed idealized and realistic numerical experiments to determine those conditions in stratified and rotating environments and for the specific case of the Gargano Promontory (South Adriatic Sea).

What have you been doing since graduation and what are you up to now?

After graduation I took a postdoctoral fellow appointment in the Earth and Planetary Science Department of the Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins, I was involved in a joint-project with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute aimed at understanding and investigating the small-scale physical processes at the base of the mixing process in the Irminger Basin. These processes control the transformation and the sinking rates of the dense waters and have direct impacts on the global thermohaline circulation.

Since 2011, I moved back to my own country and I am currently a permanent researcher at the Institute of Marine Science (ISMAR) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR). At ISMAR-CNR I am involved in different projects, mainly for simulating the dynamics in the Ligurian Sea and through the Corsica Channel, resolving small-scale eddies via HF coastal radars and simulating the transport and fate of substance at sea. Since my return, I have been also teaching and advising students at the University of Genoa.

What do you remember most about your time at the Rosenstiel School?

I have a lot of memories at RSMAS where I spent most of my adult life studying and living as a Ph.D. student. My most important memories are:
a) The "Get well soon" card I received in an Italian hospital after one of my surgeries. All MPO students, staff members, and professors signed it. That card was one of many signs that helped me, a crazy young Italian, to build up an extraordinary sense of belonging to my school and RSMAS community.
b) The sense of great satisfaction at the end of the Comprehensive Exam. It is the exam I studied for the most. I remember the huge effort to put material from all the different courses together and the eight hours of the written examination. It was hard but I remember clearly the words used by my professors at the end of the oral exam. They were personal, important, and straight to the point. They were words that every young scientist should cherish and learn from.
c) My tears on the acknowledgment slide of my defense presentation. Yes, I cried. Yes, it was in front of everybody and I will never be ashamed of it. I knew something special was over, I knew I had so many people to thank, and I knew that all of my sacrifices and low moments were worth it.
d) My first Gators vs. Canes game at the RSMAS cafeteria in 2003. Green and orange balloons everywhere. We won with an incredible last quarter and it was amazing. Everybody was shouting and it looked like an Italian soccer stadium. From that day and forever: Go 'Canes!!!!

How did your time at the Rosenstiel School help prepare you for your life and/or career today?

My RSMAS experience is still essential for my career and life for many reasons. First, I had the opportunity to learn and work in a world-class ocean modeling group. During my career, I have appreciated my background in detailed ocean modeling studies and in-depth numerical analyses, both learned at RSMAS. Second, I thank my advisor and co-advisors who spent so much time teaching me how to write a good scientific paper. I behaved like a parent with his first child on my first paper: I was overly protective and missing the important points. When you advise your own students, you start understanding the role and the vision of scientific writing that can only come from a great school and great professors. Third, RSMAS provided a multidisciplinary research and educational experience. I could take courses in advanced physical oceanographic as well as GIS, and exploit links between coastal and estuarine dynamics with global and climate change scenarios. Lastly, at RSMAS I learned how to think independently – both as a scientist and as a person. I made very important personal connections and met three of my best friends. I learned to eat and love "börek" and "garam masala" while cooking "pasta alla carbonara" for them. In brief, the whole RSMAS experience was one of the most important for me in shaping my personality as I truly came in contact with the biodiversity of the world.

 

Rafael Schiller, PhD '11

Who was your advisor at the Rosenstiel School and what kind of research did you do?

My advisor was Dr. Villy Kourafalou. I studied the dynamics of the Mississippi River Plume and interactions with the Loop Current System in the Gulf of Mexico using high-resolution numerical modeling.

What have you been doing since graduation and what are you up to now?

In August 2011, I returned to Brazil to work as a research scientist at SINTEF Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. I developed and conducted projects for the Oil and Gas Industry within offshore hydrodynamics, oceanography, and environmental modeling. In February 2014, I returned to the States to work for the metocean group of Fugro in Houston as Business Development Manager. Today, I develop the business line and commercial projects for the O&G Industry within metocean criteria, numerical modeling, ocean forecast, and oil spill modeling.

What do you remember most about your time at the Rosenstiel School?

I remember my friends, the exciting research that is conducted on a daily basis, the constant exchange of ideas, and the view of the Bay.

How did your time at the Rosenstiel School help prepare you for your life and/or career today?

Besides the oceanographic knowledge, there are two things that I learned and developed at RSMAS really help me today: attention to detail and the ability to present information. These have been key in my career progression.

 

Sarah Woods, PhD '10

Who was your advisor at the Rosenstiel School and what kind of research did you do?

My advisor was Dr. Darek Bogucki, who is now a professor at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. My research with Dr. Bogucki focused on ocean optics, specifically on laboratory investigations of the effects of ocean turbulence on light scattering underwater. In collaboration with Drs. Darek Bogucki and Will Drennan, I also spent 6 weeks gathering data on an icebreaker in the Canadian Arctic to improve correlations of sea surface roughness with air-sea CO2 exchange in high latitudes. Under the guidance of Dr. Peter Minnett, I took a closer look at air-sea gas exchange by investigating the influence of the cool skin temperature gradient at the ocean surface on global air-sea CO2 flux estimates. While at RSMAS, I also had the pleasure of serving as a teaching assistant for Drs. Will Drennan and Paquita Zuidema.

What have you been doing since graduation and what are you up to now?

Following graduation, I was awarded an ASEE postdoctoral fellowship with the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) at Stennis Space Center to continue my ocean optics research by investigating the effects of ocean turbulence on underwater imaging. As with my dissertation research, this work involved both laboratory and field studies. Upon completion of my postdoc, I extended my oceanic skillset to atmospheric studies to branch out into cloud physics. I am now working as a research scientist for a company that develops instruments and conducts research specializing in cloud microphysics. We outfit various research aircraft, both manned and unmanned, with our optical instrumentation that takes high resolution images and measures the size, shape, concentration, and phase of cloud particles. This work also involves laboratory and fieldwork and provides opportunity for collaboration with NASA, NOAA, DOE, NRL, and other government and university research groups.

What do you remember most about your time at the Rosenstiel School?

Two things that I remember most about my time at RSMAS are the people and the opportunities.  I greatly enjoyed the time and connections made with my fellow classmates and colleagues as well as the professors and research staff. I also fondly remember the ample opportunity and encouragement that I was presented at RSMAS to step out of my comfort zone and engage in a wide array of research activities including theoretical, laboratory, and field studies. Simply by expressing interest in engaging a new research area or learning new skills, I was encouraged to step up to new challenges. Of those, my favorite by far was my field research experience in the Arctic – it was my first experience working in high latitudes, and has not been my last.

How did your time at the Rosenstiel School help prepare you for your life and/or career today?

The wide array of research experiences that I was exposed to at RSMAS has helped me develop a core skill set and knowledge in environmental physics that is applicable to research in a variety of scientific applications, as well as recognition of how I may extend myself to new challenges and seek out new opportunities by applying that core skill set to many different niche research areas. My time at RSMAS also fueled my love of pursuing field work and helped me develop the skills necessary to successfully conduct field research in a variety of challenging environments.