An Immersive Classroom Experience

Sasha Kramer ’12 reports on her participation in an Ocean Optics class.

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend an intensive training program on the calibration and validation of ocean color remote sensors offered at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine. The program is sponsored by the NASA Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry program. As a Ph.D. student in Marine Science at UC Santa Barbara, I could not have attended this course without support: my housing and food were covered by NASA and my travel was covered by a MxAA summer internship grant.

This experience was transformative for me in many ways. I have heard about the Ocean Optics class for years, but attending the course surpassed all of my expectations. I was one of twenty graduate students who took part in the program this summer, taught by several instructors who are all specialists in optical oceanography and leaders in their field. Each morning, we had lectures and presentations on topics ranging from first principles of light in water to the latest challenges facing optical oceanographers today. In the afternoons, we had hands-on labs where we learned to use optical sensors and instruments, process remote sensing imagery using NASA software, and analyze bio-optical data in the lab. Each evening saw our group of students clustered around our computers, furiously processing data from the labs and putting together presentations that we would show the instructors the next morning.

Overall, the month-long experience was non-stop, immersive, and life-changing. I had unparalleled access to so many resources, with the ability to test rare instrumentation on water samples or ask the expert on a given subject a specific question about my research. I had the opportunity to collect data at sea, to write extensive computer code that pushed me to develop more creative and efficient methods, to design and carry out an independent research project, and to have my work critiqued in real time throughout the course. I gained so many skills over the course of the class and forged connections and collaborations with both my peers and my instructors that will last for the rest of my career.

I am so grateful to the Middlesex Alumni Association for supporting my attendance at this specialized course    Thank you!

Photo from our research cruise in the Damariscotta River estuary: this is a photo of me (right) with my friend Schuyler Nardelli (left), who is a Ph.D. student at Rutgers. She was a year above me at Bowdoin, so we previously did research together during undergrad and were able to reunite at the course and work together again! Photo credit to our undergrad advisor and instructor for this course, Dr. Collin Roesler.