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Alumni Perspectives

One of SoMAS’ paramount objectives is to educate and train students to become the next generation of marine and atmospheric scientists, environmental resource managers, and citizens who possess a fundamental grasp of environmental issues and the choices that society faces in handling these issues.

UndergraduateDavid Conover & MSRC Alumni honor former Dean & Director Jerry Schubel

The first undergraduate degree offered through SoMAS was a minor in marine sciences established in 1988. In 1992, an Oceanography and Environmental Studies track was established in the Multidisciplinary Studies undergraduate degree program. Also in that year, the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC) offered its first undergraduate major, as the University’s Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres (ITPA) was transferred to MSRC, bringing with it the Atmospheric Sciences/Meteorology BS degree program. Over time, other undergraduate degree programs followed: a BA in Environmental Studies (2001) and a BS in Marine Biology and a BS in Marine Vertebrate Biology (both in 2005). The Environmental Studies major is designed for students anticipating a non-science career but one with a strong environmental bent, e.g., environmental journalism. The Marine Biology and Marine Vertebrate Biology degrees prepare students for a career in the sciences or environmental management. From May 1992 through December 2008, 174 students have graduated from SoMAS with an undergraduate degree.


MSRC’s first graduate degree program, the Marine Environmental Studies Program (MESP), was Alumni Day 2004 at Stony Brook Manhattanauthorized in April 1970 and produced its first graduate in May 1971. The MESP program was a Masters of Science program designed for practicing professionals and recent college graduates with varied academic backgrounds. Its curriculum offered a strongly interdisciplinary examination of the diverse factors affecting the marine environment and was designed to prepare students for careers in the then-rapidly expanding fields of coastal management, environmental monitoring and protection and resource management. During the 1975-76 academic year, MSRC conducted an internal review of the MESP program. As a result of this review, the program name was changed to “Marine Environmental Sciences Program” and the program’s focus was shifted more towards hard science, with somewhat less emphasis being given to management and specific environmental problem-solving.

In April 1978, the Board of Trustees of the New York State Education Department approved MSRC’s Ph.D. program in coastal oceanography. The following September, the program was approved by New York Governor Hugh Carey. The Ph.D. program graduated its first two students in December, 1981.

In 2007, as MSRC was renamed the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, our graduate programs were re-titled to more properly reflect the unified educational experience within the school that is offered to both marine and atmospheric science students. At present, SoMAS offers both MS and Ph.D. degrees in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, with concentrations in either the marine or atmospheric sciences.

Since 1971, SoMAS graduate programs have produced 697 graduates; 574 received a MS degree, 184 received a Ph.D. and 61 received both degrees.  The alumni profiles below highlight a few of our graduates.


Check out the articles below for features of our alumni


Jessica Salmon, MA, 2023

Jessica SalmonMA, 2023

Miles Litzmann, MS, 2023

Miles LitzmannMS, 2023

Demetrios Caroussos, MA, 2022

Demetrios CaroussosMA, 2022

James Pizaro, BA, 2022

James PizaroBA, 2022

Kayla Clauson, MA, 2020

Kayla ClausonMA, 2020

Anna Smith, BS, 2020

Anna SmithBS, 2020

Christine Suter, MA, 2020

Christine SuterMA, 2020

Roxanne Saravia, MA, 2019

Roxanne SaraviaMA, 2019

Chris Crosby, BS, 2019

Chris CrosbyBS, 2019

Sara Cernadas-Martin, PhD, 2019

Sara Cernadas-MartinPhD, 2019

Andrew Glinsky, MA, 2019

Andrew GlinskyMA, 2019

Lucy DiBenedetto, BS, 2019

Lucy DiBenedettoBS, 2019

Greg Marshall, PhD, 2019

Greg MarshallPhD, 2019

Gina Greer, MA, 2019

Gina GreerMA, 2019

Katie Conroy, MA, 2018

Katie ConroyMA, 2018

Rachel Coccia, MA, 2017

Rachel CocciaMA, 2017

Kaitlin Giglio, MS, 2017

Kaitlin GiglioMS, 2017

Celeste Stout, MA, 2017

Celeste StoutMA, 2017

Chad Marvin, BA, 2017

Chad MarvinBA, 2017

Shannon Davis, MA, 2017

Shannon DavisMA, 2017

Emily Nocito, BS, 2016

Emily NocitoBS, 2016

Daniel Leite, MA, 2015

Daniel LeiteMA, 2015

Melissa Scheiber, BA, 2015

Melissa ScheiberBA, 2015

Molly Adams, MA, 2015

Molly AdamsMA, 2015

Tyler Abruzzo, MS, 2015

Tyler AbruzzoMS, 2015

Liz Ahearn, MA, 2015

Liz AhearnMA, 2015

Michael Colbert, BS, 2015

Michael ColbertBS, 2015

Gabriella Carvajal, MA, 2015

Gabriella CarvajalMA, 2015

Emily Markowitz, BS, 2015

Emily MarkowitzBS, 2015

Erica Cirino, BA, 2015

Erica CirinoBA, 2015

Danica Warns, MA, 2015

Danica WarnsMA, 2015

Christopher Martinez, PhD, 2014

Christopher MartinezPhD, 2014

Sarah Schaefer, MA, 2013

Sarah SchaeferMA, 2013

Brian Gallagher, BS, 2013

Brian GallagherBS, 2013

Christine O'Connell, PhD, 2013

Christine O'ConnellPhD, 2013

Kenneth Lang, MA, 2013

Kenneth LangMA, 2013

Carolyn Weis, MA, 2013

Carolyn WeisMA, 2013

Owen Doherty, PhD, 2012

Owen DohertyPhD, 2012

Elizabeth Rogers, MA, 2012

Elizabeth RogersMA, 2012

Cassie Bauer, MS, 2012

Cassie BauerMS, 2012

Jake LaBelle, MA, 2012

Jake LaBelleMA, 2012

Laura Picariello, MA, 2012

Laura PicarielloMA, 2012

Christopher Lang, MA, 2012

Christopher LangMA, 2012

Andrew Carter, MA, 2012

Andrew CarterMA, 2012

Kelly Lombardo, PhD, 2011

Kelly LombardoPhD, 2011

Julie Schipper, BA, 2011

Julie SchipperBA, 2011

John Holden, BS, 2011

John HoldenBS, 2011

Morgan Gelinas, MS, 2011

Morgan GelinasMS, 2011

Debbie Aller, BA, 2011

Debbie AllerBA, 2011

Hazel Wodehouse, MA, 2011

Hazel WodehouseMA, 2011

Geoff Bansen, BS, 2010

Geoff BansenBS, 2010

Katie Kennedy, BA, 2010

Katie KennedyBA, 2010

Tom Di Liberto, MS, 2009

Tom Di LibertoMS, 2009

Carolyn Hall, MS, 2009

Carolyn HallMS, 2009

David Novak, PhD, 2009

David NovakPhD, 2009

Lynn Abramson, PhD, 2007

Lynn AbramsonPhD, 2007

Laurie Zaleski, MS, 2002

Laurie ZaleskiMS, 2002

Laura Klahre, MS, 1997

Laura KlahreMS, 1997

Marci Bortman, PhD, 1997

Marci BortmanPhD, 1997

Lisa Clough, PhD, 1993

Lisa CloughPhD, 1993

Sanjay Gupta, MS, 1992

Sanjay GuptaMS, 1992

DeWitt Davies, PhD, 1990

DeWitt DaviesPhD, 1990

Hans Dam, PhD, 1989

Hans DamPhD, 1989

Gene Carl Feldman, PhD, 1985

Gene Carl FeldmanPhD, 1985

Gregg Rivara, MS, 1985

Gregg RivaraMS, 1985

Tom Wilson, MS, 1983

Tom WilsonMS, 1983

John Budin, MS, 1981

John BudinMS, 1981

Frank Roethel, PhD, 1981

Frank RoethelPhD, 1981

Craig Allen, BS, 1979

Craig AllenBS, 1979

Wayne Penello, MS, 1979

Wayne PenelloMS, 1979



Kestrel Perez (PhD, 2011)

KestrelPerezKESTREL PEREZ graduated in 2011 with her PhD in marine and atmospheric sciences. Under the advisement of Professor Stephan Munch, Kestrel’s dissertation examined the evolution of size in fish and evaluated the strength of natural selection and the presence of prolonged trade-offs from an early period of fast growth to better understand the evolution of size. She joined the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 2005 as a scholar in the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and is a recipient of the Dr. W. Burghardt Turner Fellowship. Upon completing her PhD, Kestrel went on to a postdoctoral position at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Marine Sciences.

Kestrel is an assistant professor of biology at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she is teaching courses in marine biology and evolution and ecology, and mentoring undergrad researchers. Her research centers on marine biology. Specifically, she focuses on fish and invertebrate evolutionary ecology, the study of life history traits and maternal investments, and how variation in these areas influences larval fitness and recruitment.

Helen Cheng (BS, 2009)

HelenSpotlightPhotoHelen Cheng was the first recipient of the Stony Brook Mote Marine Laboratory Internship.  She graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Marine Sciences in 2009.  She is now at the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB).  A recent spotlight highlighted her background

From Spotlight on Helen Cheng at the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay

The Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) and New York Sea Grant are happy to announce the arrival of Helen Cheng as the Specialist for the New York Sea Grant’s Jamaica Bay Coastal Resilience. Helen will be designing outreach programs to support community engagement and research efforts to enhance resilience for the communities within the Jamaica Bay Watershed.

“Urban areas are getting more attention, especially since the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy,” Cheng said. “Resilience is a priority across the national network of Sea Grant programs, and Jamaica Bay is internationally important setting for the issue.”

Cheng comes to SRJIB from a yearlong stint as a John D. Knauss 2015 Marine Policy Fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant, a highly competitive fellowship program among the nation’s highest qualified graduate students.  She was the Coastal Communities Specialist working in the National Sea Grant Office in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she synthesized Sea Grant Network research and extension activities surrounding coastal community sustainable development, hazard resilience, and climate change adaptation. She was on the NOAA Coastal Hazards Resilience Workshop Planning and Support team, and assessed institutional and network research portfolios from the 33 programs of the Sea Grant Network to help identify priorities of the National Sea Grant College Program.

Helen was selected a Knauss Fellow from the New Hampshire Sea Grant program. At the University of New Hampshire she earned her M.S. in Zoology with her research on horseshoe crabs. In New England, she also worked with lobsters and scallops, was a UNH teaching assistant, and a naturalist at the nearby Seacoast Science Center. Helen earned her B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University in 2009 where she was selected for the first-ever Stony Brook Mote Marine Laboratory internship.

Katherine Rojowsky (BS, 2008)

krojowskyDid you check the weather report today? Then you probably know Katherine Rojowsky’s work. Katherine, an Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences major, credits “amazing internships” with helping her mature as a meteorologist.
At WCBS-TV, Katherine prepared weather graphics and forecasts that were broadcast to millions of viewers and used by the Weather Channel. Private forecasting companies MetroWeather and Weather 2000 Inc. asked her to make weather predictions used by film and television production companies, golf courses, and local sports teams like the Mets and Long Island Ducks.
“I thought that being at SoMAS would help get me places, and I was right,” Katherine says. “I’ve already succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

Jae Lee (PhD, 2008)

jae.lee.photoJae Lee received both her PhD and MS from SoMAS, graduating in 2008. For her master’s thesis, Jae looked at radiative transfer modeling with Professor Bob Cess to estimate the earth’s radiation balance. Her PhD conducted under the direction of  Professor Sultan Hameed focused on how the sun can influence Earth’s climate.

Jae recalls “Stony Brook offered her a very good education. I learned everything I should know for my job at Stony Brook.”

Jae is currently a research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is working on satellite mission for solar irradiance measurements and analyzing satellite data to determine solar variability and its impact on Earth’s climate.  She is also “interested in arctic environment changes related with recent Greenland Ice Sheet losses.”

Jae’s advice to SoMAS students is to “Work and work, enjoy, be yourself; opportunities will come.”

Lora M. Clarke (PhD, 2007)

clarkeLora Clarke received her Ph.D. from SoMAS in 2007. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree from Christopher Newport University in Virginia and a Master of Science from the University of Massachusetts. At SoMAS, she worked with former Dean David Conover on numerous fish ecology studies involving Atlantic silversides, Menidia menidia. Lora’s research concentrated on the population dynamics and connectivity of subpopulations of this species along the east coast of the United States.
After she graduated, Lora was awarded a prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship by NOAA in 2008 and began working with the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she served as the Ecosystems Project Coordinator. Her duties included assisting Dr. Steve Murawski, then NOAA’s Chief Scientist and Head of Scientific Programs, on programs related to ecosystem-based management. She also prepared international policy briefs and reports for Congress and helped administer CAMEO (Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization) – a new grant program co-sponsored by NOAA and the National Science Foundation.
After her one year fellowship ended, Lora was hired to stay on at NOAA to work on CAMEO. Currently, Lora develops goals and priorities for interdisciplinary ecosystem research, coordinates scientific review of research proposals and creates outreach plans to help promote the CAMEO program. In addition, Lora works with JSOST, the Joint Subcommittee for Ocean Science and Technology. JSOST is a group of 25 federal agencies organized under the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that sets the national priorities for ocean science and technology research. Lora is one of two executive secretaries for the group.
Lora reflects on her SoMAS years…“The interdisciplinary nature of my education at SoMAS helped to prepare me for the work I am doing now and has helped to shape my career path. The breadth of courses, field work and lab experiences provided me with a strong well-rounded background in marine science and has allowed me to have the flexibility to pursue a career in science administration and policy. Working in internationally famous laboratories exposed me to leaders in the field and I was impressed by the willingness of faculty and students to collaborate with each other. This has helped me to successfully tackle the variety of marine ecosystem issues that I face in my job today. I am extremely thankful for my time at SoMAS.”

Joyce Lau (BS, 2006)


“Being in Stony Brook University gave me the opportunity to experience what it means to be a marine biologist and I am thankful I have been a part of MSRC. The Marine Sciences Research Center is full of faculty who are supportive and always willing to help. I will always remember as I was applying to graduate school, all the faculty who were willing to talk to me and give me advice even though I was never one of their students and they were not my assigned advisors. Having had a mentor like Bassem Allam has really helped me become who I am today. He was supportive, helpful, and taught me how to become a better scientist. With him as my mentor, I was able to do a URECA summer project, present a poster at the URECA poster presentation event, as well as learn numerous lab skills. As I continue my studies in marine science, I can only hope that one day I will become a professor who like Mary Scranton, is always willing to take time out to advise students, who like Bassem Allam, inspires students to pursue marine science and instills confidence in students to think for themselves, and like all the faculty at marine science, who always keep an open door and a willingness to help every student.”

Dianne Greenfield (PhD, 2002)

greenfield“I was very happy with my decision to come to MSRC at Stony Brook for my Ph.D., and I would highly recommend MSRC to future students. One of the biggest assets of the department is its open and friendly atmosphere. Not only is it relatively easy to collaborate with other laboratories on site, but the majority of students socialize together creating a warm, welcoming environment, which is so important considering how much time one spends on campus and interacting with colleagues. Students who decide to attend MSRC are rewarded with a wonderful opportunity to develop their own research interests with excellent faculty, and, when one has spare time, students can easily drive or take the train into New York City or hang out at the many nearby beaches.”

Dianne Greenfield. Ph.D. 2002
Research Assistant Professor
University of South Carolina & South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources

Anitra Ingalls (PhD, 2002)

anitra“I highly recommend Stony Brook and the Marine Sciences Research Center to prospective students. The faculty here are not only first-rate researchers; they sincerely care about seeing graduate students achieve their career goals in science. Students come to the MSRC from a variety of backgrounds and with a broad range of interests. This diversity is on of the MSRC’s greatest strengths. Students can pursue their interests in all areas of oceanographic research, and have the opportunity to participate in and design projects in locations ranging from the Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. Living near the water is an added plus. While some students rely on the sound as a study site, others are happy to go kayaking, swimming, sailing, and fishing there when they are not in the lab.”

Anitra Ingalls, Ph.D. 2002
Assistant Professor,
University of Washington