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December 10, 2018
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Science Focus of Woods Hole Undergraduate Internship Program Aimed at Diversity

Program Dates June 1 - August 10, 2019

“My favorite thing about the program was the amount of opportunity that is available for students as well as being able to meet new people and make friends from all different areas and backgrounds.” PEP Graduate

The Partnership Education Program (PEP), a project supported by six science institutions in Woods Hole, Massachusetts is seeking applicants for a 10-week summer program that combines undergraduate course work with research in marine and environmental science.

Launched in 2009, PEP is designed to promote a diverse scientific community by recruiting talent from all backgrounds but especially minority groups that are under-represented in marine and environmental sciences.

PEP completed its tenth summer in 2018, hosting 15 students from 12 different colleges or universities. Four of the colleges or universities were new to the program, bringing the total to 92 colleges or universities, including 29 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and/or Minority Serving Institutions, and 153 students who have participated in PEP since 2009. PEP will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a weekend of activities in Woods Hole June 27-30, 2019.

The Partnership Education Program is designed for college students, with priority given to entering juniors and seniors, majoring in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, or geosciences and earth system sciences) or engineering, mathematics or social sciences. Applicants must also have completed some course work in oceanography, biology, or marine and/or environmental science. The program includes a four-week course and 10-week research internship.

Research Cruise a New Addition

A new addition to the program in 2018 was a four-day research cruise aboard the Sea Education Association’s 134-foot Sailing School Vessel (SSV) Corwith Cramer. The voyage gives students a taste of life at sea; they learn to sail and to gather oceanographic and biological data which they later use in their course work. A similar cruise is planned in 2019.

"We are excited about the 2019 program -- the cruise aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer is a great opportunity to learn about sailing vessels, to bond with fellow PEPsters, and to collect real world data that will be useful back on shore in the course portion of the program," said George Liles, PEP director and director of academic programs at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.

PEP students live together on the Sea Education Association campus and participate in group career building activities such as seminars, workshops, field trips, and at-sea experiences. They also attend lectures at partner science institutions throughout the summer and participate in local community activities.

The 2019 PEP program will run June 1 through August 10. The PEP course, “Ocean and Environmental Sciences: Global Climate Change,” is offered for credit through the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and runs from June 3 to June 28. The course is taught in Woods Hole by research scientists from local science institutions. PEP students will conduct research projects that employ some of the techniques and explore some of the issues presented in the course. At the end of the program in mid-August, the students will present results from their research in a 20-minute public presentation during a one-day PEP seminar.

PEP Offers New Experiences

“Before coming to Woods Hole, I had no experience with oceanography,” said Irene Duran, a 2018 PEP participant who plans to graduate from California State University, Chico with a degree in mechatronics engineering in the fall of 2019. “I really enjoyed learning about marine science from a physical, biological and geological perspective. I loved all the new experiences this program introduced me to. Now I see how I can combine my two favorite things: robots and the ocean.”

The 2019 program will cover tuition and room and board, as well as provide a travel allowance and a stipend. Students who apply on or before February 8 will have priority for admissions and financial support. The 2019 PEP Class will be announced on February 28. Application information and reports on previous programs are available on the Woods Hole PEP website (

PEP welcomes applications from students of all backgrounds. Students from groups under-represented in marine and environmental sciences are especially encouraged to apply – this includes African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian Pacific Island, and Alaska Native students.

An Eye-Opening Adventure

“The PEP experience has been an eye-opening adventure for me,” said 2018 PEP graduate Emma Wilkin of Howard University. “It is the first time I have been able to get a foot in the marine biology world, and it is putting me a step closer towards my goals.” Wilkin plans to graduate in the spring of 2020 with a degree in biology and attend veterinary school.

PEP is a project of the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative. Participating institutions are: NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Sea Education Association, U. S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Woods Hole Research Center. The Woods Hole Diversity Initiative's primary academic partner is the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

For further information, contact PEP Director George Liles at NOAA Fisheries ( or 508-495-2318) or Dr. Paulinus Chigbu at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore ( or 410-621-3034).