If you had told me a year ago that I would be answering questions on the Equations of Motion in a physics exam, or preparing a geophysical survey report for a proposed wind farm – well, I would have said that you were mad. I do not consider myself a scientific kind of girl. Building businesses, growing assets and marketing brands is more my vibe. Yet here I am. With a head saturated with scientific knowledge and newly grey hairs.
Oceanography covers every aspect of the oceans, and complementing the biology, chemistry, physics and geology are those subjects which specialise in their overlap: geophysics, biogeochemistry and ecology amongst others. Then, of course, there is maths, which appears to weave not only the oceans, but the entire cosmos together. In short, oceanography is 8 disciplines for the price of 1, and all this knowledge can be yours in just one short year.
MSc Oceanography at Southampton is a postgraduate conversion course, designed to follow an undergraduate science degree. Much of the first semester is “introductory” modules, with the purpose of allowing students to brush up on their rustier subjects. Having not studied since 2005 it all felt new to me, although I suspect it was no easier for my peers. The combination of relentless coursework deadlines and post-Christmas exams making undergraduate studies seem relatively more akin to the demands of primary school years.
The elected modules of the second semester are held in classes with students who have been specialising in their subject for up to 4 years, whether it be geology, geophysics or marine biology. In this context of playing catch-up and forever being out of our depth, we have just completed a month without a single day off. Our final semester will be individual research projects, culminating in a 25,000 word report in September. It is relentlessly challenging, exhausting, often overwhelming and totally fascinating work.
I find myself telling friends about the aragonite saturation horizon over dinner, mostly because I think it sounds cool and makes me sound clever. They ask me how I’m going to apply all of this knowledge when the course is over. Well, first of all, I’m going to put a halt to those greys and take a holiday. But then I’m going to get that job I’ve wanted my whole life because nothing in the world could have prepared me better than this masters.