Dual Degree Student Voices

Margaux Filippi

Margaux Filippi
Paris, France

BS Math and BS Oceanography 2012
Hawai‘i Pacific University

MS Mechanical Engineering 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
I was born in Paris, but grew up around Europe and spent my high school years in Munich, Germany. I was sixteen in my senior year and was hesitating between studying mathematics at the Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie (Paris VI, Jussieu), or oceanography in the United States. Few campuses offered oceanography undergraduate majors and Hawai'i Pacific University (HPU) was one of them. I was interested in their curriculum, and the fact that it was a small school with many international students was very appealing to me at the time. I was particularly excited by the labs and the hands-on experience HPU was offering. I was awarded an academic scholarship and in the summer of 2008, right after turning seventeen and graduating high school, I moved to Hawai'i by myself.

Only a few undergraduates actually majored in oceanography, so for many classes, I had to attend graduate courses. For six semesters, I had labs that included a boat component aboard the school's small research vessel. Eventually, my interests in oceanography and mathematics merged into ocean engineering and in my junior year, I started interning part-time at Sea Engineering, Inc. (SEI), a coastal engineering firm based out of the Makai Research Pier in Waimanalo. I immediately loved the company, the people I was working for, and I cannot speak highly enough of them and the quality of the work environment. The following summer, I kept working at Sea Engineering as a paid intern, and a few months later, I was offered a full-time position. I continued on at Sea Engineering after graduating with a double-major in Oceanography and Pure Mathematics (Spring 2012) and spent the next year in Optional Practical Training, a temporary employment for international students that is directly related to the student's major area of study. For two and a half years, I worked closely with HPU’s Career Services Center to be able to work at SEI in accordance to the U.S. immigration policies regarding foreign students’ employments.

In my senior year, I participated in a research cruise throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This cruise was a unique experience and I was very lucky to be admitted there as an undergraduate. It was an optional component of a class I was taking, MARS 6120 - Coral Reef Ecology with Dr. Kahng. His work focuses on mesophotic corals and my assignment was to assess the existence and potential impact of internal waves on these deep-sea coral communities. This eventually led me to read some papers by Prof. Peacock from the Mechanical Engineering (MechE) department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After almost a year of email correspondence and interviews with Prof. Peacock, MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), I got the honor to be admitted to the MIT/WHOI Joint PhD Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Sciences & Engineering.

I am very excited to be a part of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program and I am very grateful for all the support I obtained from my professors in the mathematics department, the oceanography department and from Sea Engineering. With two majors and a part-time position at SEI, my professors really helped accommodate my schedule, and I was able to take several directed studies in some very specific fields of mathematics. When I took MATH 4210 – Topology and MATH 4450 – Complex Analysis in Spring 2012 at HPU, I never thought I would ever combine both branches of mathematics to apply them to fluid dynamics. Yet, I started graduate school in June 2013 and am now part of Prof. Peacock's lab, the Experimental and Nonlinear Dynamic Lab (ENDLab) at the MechE. Next, I am about to go on the Jake Peirson cruise with Sea Education Association (SEA) aboard the Sailing School Vessel SSV Corwith Cramer, a 12-day research cruise for incoming WHOI students.