Feature Stories 2022: Neeharika Verma '22: Studying at SMAST

Neeharika Verma
Photo courtesy of Neeharika Verma.
Feature Stories 2022: Neeharika Verma '22: Studying at SMAST
Neeharika Verma '22: Studying at SMAST

Neeharika talks about the value of her research and leadership experiences as a marine science graduate student.

Neeharika, please tell us about your best experiences as a graduate student.

“I’m glad that I had the opportunity to study and research at the School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST). It is a great community of people with diverse interests, and I like that it is a small community where everyone knows each other. It’s great to be able to talk to people with various backgrounds, from fisheries to physical oceanography, as well as sea-going scientists, and people who work on communication with local fisheries and education.”

As a student at SMAST, did you have the opportunity to engage in any leadership roles?

“I am an SMAST student representative for the year 2021-22 and it has been a learning experience, from organizing events for the students to the planning for the IMS symposium. Working with the administration team at SMAST was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the organization, planning, and execution of all those plans from them.

Being a student representative taught me how to think of even the smallest complications that could arise and to always have a backup plan, whether for other leadership roles or for my research.”

Can you tell us about your research?

“I am currently studying and working as a research assistant with Dr. Steven Lohrenz. I am using ocean color data from hyperspectral remote sensing datasets, satellite observations and in situ measurements to assess distributions of phytoplankton size classes and particle composition in the river-influenced regions of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The project aims to evaluate the capabilities of using new instruments and satellite ocean color to assess distributions of phytoplankton communities, productivity, and water quality constituents at large spatial and temporal scales.

I have also had the opportunity to volunteer on research cruises with Dr. Mark Altabet, organizing CTD casts and sampling seawater for nutrient and dissolved gases to understand biogeochemical cycling in oxygen minimum zone in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific. These experiences taught me how to integrate them with my master’s coursework in biological, chemical, and physical oceanography.”

What are your plans following graduation?

“I am excited to use a combination of in situ experimentation as well as fieldwork to contribute to marine research and will be joining the Integrative Biology program at the University of Chicago and will be researching at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.”