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In safe hands

New master’s, PhD degrees at MI in maritime safety and survival

Teaching and Learning

By Kim Thornhill

Safety and survival is paramount to the health and lives of workers in the maritime sector.

But who provides the research to formulate safety procedures, training requirements and regulations for the industry?

The Marine Institute (MI) is contributing to the knowledge base in the field of maritime safety and survival with two new graduate programs, the master of science in maritime studies (safety: the human element) degree and a doctor of philosophy in maritime studies degree.

The doctoral program is the first to be offered by the School of Maritime Studies.

“We’re opening opportunities in this field of research for individuals to develop wide-ranging, critical skills and insight that will have a direct impact on the industry,” said Capt. Fred Anstey, head of the school.

Both programs will begin via remote learning this fall.

Unique blend

Dr. Heather Carnahan oversaw the development of the new degrees.

She leads the institute’s Ocean Safety Research Unit (ORSU), a diverse group of researchers who, in collaboration with the marine industry, examine the human factors impacting safety and survival.

“The industry needs strong scholars with industry experience to advance research in this field,” said Dr. Carnahan. “Our programs will produce world-class researchers who have as much industry exposure and experience as possible to ensure they have a unique perspective when they graduate.”

Full-time and part-time students in both degrees will complete online course work in maritime safety and survival research, statistics and research design, science communication for maritime studies and human factors studies.

“We found there were no specific programs in North America or internationally similar to ours that focus on ocean safety and survival.” — Dr. Heather Carnahan

Throughout their studies, students will collaborate with industry to lead and conduct original human factors research that may ultimately impact positive changes for safe operations in maritime environments.

“Beyond being a theoretical program, we are adding an applied perspective with industry input,“ explained Dr. Carnahan. “Questions about maritime safety need to come from companies and regulators to really reflect what industry needs. Our aim is to provide a scholarly and practical lens to addressing those questions.”

Industry inspiration

Dr. Carnahan points to industry for helping to identify the demand for the new programs.

“Once we did an environmental scan, we found there were no specific programs in North America or internationally similar to ours that focus on ocean safety and survival with the perspective and resources available at the Marine Institute.”

She says the institute connected with people in shipping, oil and gas, fisheries – industries that intersect with MI – and received overwhelming interest in the programs.

Testing safety and survival equipment at sea is an important aspect of research for the OSRU.
Photo: Submitted

So much so, Dr. Caranhan added, some companies indicated they would support employees while they studied in order to bring new expertise into the workplace.

“We expect students will come from different cognate areas such as engineering, kinesiology, psychology and physiology and will be able to apply their work experience from these different lenses. It will make for an interesting cohort who will learn from our faculty and each other.”

Capt. Anstey and Dr. Carnahan expect graduates will work in fields where issues of safety and survival are critical, such as aviation, search and rescue, military, firefighting, fisheries, oil and gas, and marine transportation.

Living labs

Students will also have access to world-class facilities at MI to conduct their research.

Dr. Carnahan calls the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre and the Centre for Marine Simulation “living laboratories.”

“At both centres, students can conduct research, gain cutting-edge knowledge about equipment, training and human performance and feed back their results to improve training curriculum and delivery.”

“We’re excited to be on the cutting edge of this research where we can provide highly qualified graduates with one-of-a kind facilities and direct connections to industry,” said Capt. Anstey.

More information

Applications for the master’s and PhD programs are now being accepted for the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.

Prospective students are encouraged to find a supervisor within the Ocean Safety Research Unit and apply as early as possible.

Applications are reviewed upon receipt and accepted as time permits. For more information, please email here.

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