Say hello to Will Szumita, a graduating senior in our Marine Sciences program. Our seaside location, combined with the world-class Girard Marine Science Center, research vessels, and even a University-owned, private island, gives students access to a 3,500 mile living laboratory where they are (literally!) steps from learning on the water.
Will chatted with us about his experience. Let’s dive in and learn all about his research, internship, and field experiences as a Marine Sciences major.
A Life That Leads to the Ocean
Will is originally from Wayne, New Jersey. He chose UNE for a few key reasons: “I was drawn to UNE because of its strong Marine Sciences program as well as the opportunity to play lacrosse. I visited campus several times in high school and each time I did, I fell in love with the school more. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. Being on campus just felt right, and I could easily picture myself here.”
Students majoring in Marine Sciences choose from two different tracks: Marine Biology or Oceanography. Will chose the Marine Biology track, along with a minor in Animal Behavior. He explains why he decided to focus on Marine Biology: “I fell in love with the ocean from a very young age of about five years old. I knew that I wanted my life to go in a direction that would lead me to the ocean. As I grew older, I learned specifically about marine biology and all the different roles a marine biologist can play. UNE helped me realize my passion for research by exposing me to a variety of concepts and allowing me to engage in different topics.”
Outside the classroom, Will stays active on campus. He plays on the men’s lacrosse team and is a men’s lacrosse representative on UNE’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. He serves as an Undergraduate Admissions student ambassador and also works in UNE’s Shark and Fish Ecology Research Lab.
Coursework, Faculty, and a 3,500-Mile Living Laboratory
Like all of UNE’s programs, hands-on learning is a fundamental component of the Marine Sciences major. Our seaside Biddeford Campus, located where the Saco River converges with the Atlantic Ocean, is ideal for experiential education and exploring all facets of life in oceans, freshwater, and estuaries. The coursework, combined with research, internships, and collaborative learning opportunities, prepares students for exciting careers in the field.
We asked Will to tell us more about his courses: “What I love about the courses here is how you never feel like you’re just learning from a book. The labs that accompany lectures are all hands-on and help further what you learn in the classroom beyond notes on a PowerPoint presentation. My favorite courses I have taken so far have been Marine Ecology; Biology of Sharks, Skates, and Rays; and Experimental Animal Physiology.”
And what about the professors in the School of Marine and Environmental Programs? “The professors are all extremely knowledgeable in their field and have relevant experience they can relate to class topics. The faculty is the reason this program is so great. The professors truly care about teaching and are passionate about engaging with students who share similar interests.”
Will also explained the importance of experiential education within his program. He says: “Experiential education is provided during all undergraduate years. For Marine Sciences majors, this is accomplished through labs that accompany lectures. Students get to practice laboratory and field techniques they are exposed to during lectures. There are also several presentations and online seminars students are made aware of in order to increase their knowledge. Finally, there are several research labs in the School that undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in. All of this relevant experience only serves to better prepare UNE students for future jobs and opportunities.”
Outside the Classroom and Beyond UNE
Through internships, research, and field experiences, UNE students don’t just learn marine science — they do marine science. The summer after his sophomore year, Will had the opportunity to intern as an aquarist and educator at a small non-profit aquarium. He told us more about his experience and how it put his UNE education into practice: “My duties involved taking care of the animals and tanks, daily feedings and cleanings, and interacting with the aquarium guests at different touch tanks. The knowledge that I obtained at UNE helped me engage with people better as I could tell them all sorts of interesting facts about the animals. Getting to work in animal husbandry also helped further my understanding of things I learned in the classroom. Observing the animals I learned about in-person helped build off of my education. It was a really great experience, and I am so happy I got the opportunity.”
As Will approaches the end of his senior year, he’s planning for what’s next. “After I graduate from UNE, I plan on working an entry-level marine science job, hopefully in a research lab or a fishery for a couple years before continuing my education. Once I gain experience working, I plan to apply to graduate programs to obtain my master’s degree in marine science.”
Best of luck to you, Will!
Marine Sciences at UNE
Interested in learning more about our School of Marine and Environmental programs? Check out our website for more details, and sign up for a summer Marine and Environmental Programs info session. During the info session, you’ll have opportunities to connect with professors, tour labs and facilities, and get out on the water for a boat tour.
View all our campus visit opportunities at une.edu/visit.
For more student stories, read Applied Exercise Science student Chloe’s feature here and Business student Al’s feature here.