Valerie Hall '14: PhD Marine Science: Living Marine Resources Science/Management

Alumna Valerie Hall talks about her studies at UMassD's School for Marine Science & Technology and the Intercampus Marine Science Program, which allows students to take courses anywhere in the UMass system.

How did you become interested in marine science?

One of my undergraduate professors took me to Woods Hole at the end of my freshman year to work in his lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory. It changed my life. From then on, I knew that I wanted to be near the ocean and to study its inhabitants.

Talk about your focal areas of study while at SMAST.

My concentration was in fisheries. Aside from the core courses in the four areas of oceanography, I took courses in invertebrate fisheries, fish biology, marine microbiology, scientific writing, survey sampling, statistics, and population modeling.

How has studying at SMAST impacted your career path?

After I retired from my teaching career, I chose to study at SMAST, which fulfilled my lifelong dream of earning a PhD in the marine sciences and has allowed me to do something meaningful for my home on Nantucket.

What was one of the most important aspects of your educational experience?

I learned how to write for scientific publication by doing my dissertation research and writing, and by taking a wonderful course in scientific writing, taught by Professor Kevin Stokesbury. I also learned how to make scientific presentations, a requirement in many of the classes I took.

Talk about your present career.

I am basically retired, but I serve as a part-time research associate for the Maria Mitchell Association, a research and education non-profit on the island. In addition to continuing my research on bay scallops, I particularly enjoy mentoring the young people who volunteer to work in my lab. I also work as an animal caregiver in a local animal shelter and serve as the President of my church congregation.

What makes SMAST special?

SMAST is special because it is part of an Intercampus Marine Science Program that allows students to take courses anywhere in the UMass system. It is also special because of the flexibility in allowing graduate students to pursue their line of research, their passion.

Any advice for new SMAST students?

As with any graduate program, new students do best if they already have a pretty good idea what they would like to do research in, and with whom they might like to work. They should explore the course offerings both at SMAST and at the UMass campuses so that they see what is available in their area of interest. And get to know the wonderful international students. 

What do you consider the most memorable experience during your time at SMAST?

I loved many of my courses, especially those that offered field and laboratory experiences. But most of all, it was the acceptance and collegiality of the international students at SMAST that made my experience most memorable. Many of them have become lifelong friends.


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