Sheel Prajapati '18: Coastal systems science

Sheel, who pursued her master's degree in coastal systems science at UMassD's School for Marine Science and Technology, outlines the keys to career success.

  • College School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST)
  • Major: Marine science and technology – Coastal systems science
  • Department: Estuarine and Ocean Sciences
  • Faculty advisor: Dr. Mark Altabet
  • Graduation year: 2018

Discuss your interest in marine science.

I completed my first MS in environmental biotechnology. All subjects were based on terrestrial systems, which made me very curious about the aquatic ecosystems. Even though the state I grew up (Gujarat, India) has the longest coastline in my home country, we did not have any specific subjects that covered coastal systems. This made me curious about marine sciences, and I ended up applying for this program at UmassD.

What did you study as a student at SMAST?

I started with genetics because I had a degree in biotechnology then I inclined towards oceanography. Learning biological oceanography was an amazing experience. My marine policy class helped me understand the sustainable management of ocean resources. Chemical oceanography, specifically biogeochemistry, was the most interesting subject I had in this program. While it was difficult to understand initially, reading and focusing on research about the subject proved beneficial.

Explain how studying at SMAST influenced your career path.

Studying at SMAST gave me an opportunity to understand and learn each and every aspect of a research lab. I gained confidence working independently and within a team. Due to my research assistantship, I was able to conduct research in an actual laboratory, participate in different lab-based projects, and familiarize myself with scientific instruments in the lab. My training on mass spectrometer also helped me land my current position at Washington State University as a scientific assistant.

Also, while conducting research I was introduced to various other subjects, including proposal writing, development of research marketing materials (e.g., PowerPoint presentations and research posters), and the relevance of reviewing academic research articles to understand project details.

Any advice for incoming marine science students?

Performing research can test your patience. Never give up. Acquiring knowledge alone will boost your confidence. Also, lean on your faculty advisor for support. Discuss difficulties with your mentor and be consistent. I found this to be my recipe for career success.


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