UNCW Adds New Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences Ph.D. Program

Friday, November 19, 2021

A new doctoral program in Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences will be offered at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, tentatively beginning in fall 2022. Approved by the UNC Board of Governors at its November meeting, the highly interdisciplinary Ph.D. program will leverage the campus’s unique coastal location by offering in-depth curricula and research experiences in coastal and ocean sciences, as well as additional coursework on entrepreneurship and technology development.

“This new doctoral program aligns with our strategy to offer graduate degrees at the highest level that are applied, interdisciplinary and address some of the biggest challenges facing our region and our nation,” said James J. Winebrake, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UNCW. “This degree will not only increase the number of highly trained doctoral students working to solve critical coastal problems, but also engage undergraduate students in various ways, thus helping meet our commitment to undergraduate education, as well.”

National trends indicate a growing market for doctoral degrees in marine-related fields, according to a market analysis by Hanover Research, Inc. Concurrently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an above-average growth rate for jobs nationally and regionally in marine science professions. Graduates of the new ACOS doctoral program will be well-qualified for the academic job market and well-suited for employment in the private sector, in the policy sector and as entrepreneurs starting their own businesses.

“We are excited to have this degree at UNCW, the state’s coastal university,” said Christopher Finelli, dean of the Graduate School. “The Ph.D. in Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences brings together faculty expertise in areas such as chemistry, oceanography, coastal engineering, biology, environmental sciences, coastal policy, computing and business, among others, to provide students with a rich set of coursework and research opportunities to serve our students and the region. The degree is also distinctive in its integration of entrepreneurship topics that help students envision new applications for their ideas in business, policy making and other areas of targeted problem solving.”

Students in the program will benefit from existing resources at UNC Wilmington, including an extensive research infrastructure. Six graduate programs and nearly a dozen undergraduate programs will provide support on campus. Students will also have access to high-tech facilities such as the UNCW Mariculture Facility on Wrightsville Beach and MARBIONC and the Shellfish Research Hatchery, both of which are located at the Center for Marine Science, a UNCW facility that includes more than 170,000 square feet of research space and houses 44 faculty laboratories.

“The Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences Ph.D. program is essential to growing UNCW marine science research,” said Stuart Borrett, associate provost for research and innovation. “This lets nearly 80 faculty mentor Ph.D. students, whose efforts are a powerful game-changer in terms of the research our campus can accomplish.” 

“This new Ph.D. adds to our growing set of Ph.D. programs at UNCW,” said Chancellor Jose Sartarelli. “With this degree, we will have five doctoral programs on campus, and as a large, national research university, we aim to add additional doctoral degrees in the coming years."

UNC Wilmington currently offers doctoral degrees Integrative, Comparative and Marine Biology (Ph.D.), Educational Leadership (Ed.D.), Psychology (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). In addition to the new ACOS doctoral degree, plans are underway for a sixth doctoral degree in pharmaceutical chemistry, currently under consideration at the UNC System Office.

-- Krissy Vick