MSCI3001 - Student Perspectives

Please enjoy a collection of student perspectives about MSCI3001.

Physical Oceanography: a breeze

By Nish Su

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TLDR: Basically a pretty chill and relaxing course that introduces basic ocean dynamics. Transitions into different topics are easy to understand and flows quite nicely. Workload is flexible across the semester and somewhat light. Gained some programming knowledge and the ability to produce some kick-ass plots (at the time they were cool). 10/10 would do again.

The global meridional geostrophic flow showing the changes in surface flow particularly near the equator. 

Initially, I chose this course out of the very limited selection of science electives noted within the UNSW Handbook. Oceanography had been a somewhat traumatic field of study which I had avoided ever since second year. I have now come to find my intrigue and interests in oceanography despite reluctantly choosing this course. Special shoutout to the very friendly Alex Sen Gupta and Andrea Taschetto who were very helpful and patient when explaining concepts.

Let’s go over the course. Just to let you know, I come from a Climate Science background with limited programming and math knowledge (at the time). Many students that I interacted with were either exchange students or had a background in marine biology or ecology. With that in mind, the content is very friendly and easy to understand to those with no prior knowledge on ocean dynamics.

The teaching style is implemented through a combination of lectures, tutorials and labs, with tutorials and labs on alternating weeks. Within the two hour weekly lectures, content ranges from various forms of measuring ocean properties to understanding the ocean dynamics, processes and systems. Each week was relevant and further added upon the content of the previous week. Tutorials involved simple mathematical equations which aided in the understanding of the theory discussed in the lectures. Very simple questions. Once I had grasped the concept and completed the questions, I went home early. Labs were a little different. These labs involved basic data manipulation and analysis through Matlab. If you had no idea what that is or how to use it, don’t fret. Alex and Andrea provided a step by step guide each week to help you code and produce plots. The last few weeks of classes are replaced with individual presentations which are assessed – I heard at the end of it they had beer and cider together.

At the end of the semester, you would have found yourself with basic programming skills, presentation skills and developed understanding of how the ocean works. For me, I also found myself a supervisor for my Honours project. I had approached Alex and Andrea and next thing you know I’m doing my Honours project on oceanographic temperature extremes. I would have never thought that this course would have the potential for anything more than just learning the course content.  Well, with an open mind and a positive attitude who knows what you can get out of a course.

Text and photos by Nish Su. Nish completed MSCI3001 in Semester 2 of 2016 and submitted this perspective in May 2017.