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Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology

Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute

Hawaii Space Grant Consortium

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

International Pacific Research Center

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Sea Grant College Program

Ocean and Resources Engineering


Ocean and Resources Engineering

Holmes Hall 402
2540 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7572
Fax: (808) 956-3498
Email: adminore@hawaii.edu
Web: www.ore.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*B. M. Howe, PhD (Chair)—acoustical and physical oceanography, tomography, sensors and network infrastructure
*J. C. Wiltshire, PhD (Associate Chair)—submersibles, ROV, marine minerals, marine mining technology
*K. F. Cheung, PhD (Graduate Chair)—coastal and offshore engineering, hydrodynamics, computational methods, water wave mechanics, coastal flood hazards
*R. C. Ertekin, PhD—hydrodynamics, ocean renewable energy, offshore engineering, nonlinear waves, computational mechanics
*B. D. Greeson, PhD—offshore engineering, hydrodynamics, ROV/submersible operations
*G. Nihous, PhD—ocean thermal energy conversion, marine renewable energy
*E. Nosal, PhD—passive acoustic monitoring methods, ocean ambient noise, sediment acoustics, bioacoustics

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

J. M. Becker, PhD—general ocean circulation
B. S. Bingham, PhD—robotics, autonomous navigation, dynamics and controls
B. A. Brooks, PhD—geodetic, GPS
M. Chyba, PhD—control theory
R. Ghorbani, PhD—dynamics, controls, design, alternative energy
B. Glazer, PhD—instrumentation
S. M. Masutani, PhD—ocean resources engineering
G. McMurtry, PhD—oceanographic engineering
M. A. Merrifield, PhD—coastal and near-shore processes
H. R. Riggs, PhD—structural engineering
J. R. Smith, PhD—marine survey

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

G. Pawlak, PhD—coastal mixing processes, fluid dynamics, sediment transport

Degrees Offered: MS in ocean and resources engineering, PhD in ocean and resources engineering

The Academic Program

Ocean and Resources Engineering is the application of ocean science and engineering design to the challenging conditions found in the ocean environment and to the synthesis of novel products from marine systems. Waves and currents, turbulence, dynamic loads, mobile sediment, high pressure and temperature variations, ocean acoustics, as well as chemical and biological processes, are among the considerations that set ocean and resources engineering apart from conventional land-based engineering.

Educational and research emphasis is placed on coastal engineering, offshore engineering, and ocean resources engineering. Coastal engineering deals with coastal and harbor problems, sediment transport, nearshore environmental engineering, and coastal flood hazards due to storm surge, and tsunamis. Offshore engineering is concerned with structures and systems used in the deeper parts of the ocean, including the continental shelf. It also includes hydrodynamics of fluid-body interaction, seakeeping and dynamic responses of marine vehicles and platforms, and hydroelasticity of very large floating structures. Ocean resources engineering is concerned with the engineering systems to develop the energy, minerals and living resources of the oceans, the use of the ocean for waste disposal, and the environmental and economic aspects of these activities. The MS program in ocean and resources engineering is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which provides accreditation services to the first degree offered by engineering programs.

The educational and research programs in the department have a good balance between numerical and laboratory modeling as well as field observation.

Computing facilities include 5 Linux systems and a network of Pentium-based PCs. The cluster Kiwi comprises a 44 TB RAID and 22 processing nodes each containing 2 Intel Quad Core X5460 processes with 24 GB RAM. The department also maintains a number of software packages that are available to the students for course work and research.

The department's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (EFDL) focuses on the study of coastal marine processes including turbulent dispersal of pollutants and nutrients, wave dynamics, and sediment transport as well as fundamental fluid processes such as vortex breakdown and boundary layer turbulence. In addition, the laboratory is home to the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Education Laboratory, which serves as a center for teaching of fluids phenomena. Laboratory instrumentation includes acoustic Doppler velocimeters (ADVs) which obtain high frequency, single point, 3-component velocity measurements, and a laser-based digital particle imaging velocimetry (DPIV) system that obtains two-dimensional fluid velocity via laser imaging techniques. A pulsed Nd:YAG laser and UV light system with digital still and video cameras are used for flow visualization and measurement. The EFDL houses multiple experiment tanks, which are used for both research and teaching demonstrations. These include a 10-meter long, 30 x 10 cm wave channel, and a small rotating table. The tanks allow demonstration of a range of fluid flow phenomena including wave breaking, downslope currents, internal waves in stratified fluids along with rotational effects such as spin-up, Ekman flow and geostrophy.

The department maintains facilities at Kewalo Basin and Snug Harbor in Honolulu for fieldwork and in-ocean experiments. The department operates the Kilo Nalu Observatory offshore of Kakaako, which provides cabled power and Ethernet for in-ocean experimentation at 10 and 20m depths. Kilo Nalu provides comprehensive, real-time observations of ocean currents, waves and water properties, and hosts multiple ongoing research projects focused on coastal ocean processes and instrument development. Field observational equipment includes a REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), an LBV 150 remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an array of wave gauges, acoustic current profilers, and current meters. In addition, the department has access to a 25-ft twin-outboard motorboat and has access to a 57-ft coastal vessel and two ocean-going vessels operated by SOEST.

In ocean acoustics, gliders are being used as gateways communicating between underwater mobile and fixed nodes and pilots on shore. Hydrophones on gliders monitor for ambient sound including marine mammals, wind and rain, and shipping. Research on detection, classification, and tracking of marine mammals and divers is underway. Tomographic remote sensing work is being developed for use on small scales in local waters as well as on regional and basin scales.

The graduate program in ocean and resources engineering channels the students' previous engineering or scientific experience to ocean-related careers. Approximately 50% of the 2000-2009 graduates found work in private industry including oil companies, shipyards, consulting and environmental service firms, classification societies, and construction companies in the U.S. About 30% of them joined or continued their employment with federal and state agencies. Another 15% continued to study in the U.S. and 5% returned to their countries of origin. Forty percent of the graduates stayed in Hawai'i.

Graduate Study

Educational Objectives

The Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering offers a graduate program leading to the Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. The goal of the program is to prepare students for the engineering profession and to conduct research in the support of the educational program. The objectives of the program at the MS level are to produce graduates who, during the first few years following graduation:

  1. Are effective and creative engineers applying knowledge of mathematics and science to the solution of practical engineering problems;
  2. Have general understanding of and ability to work in the ocean and resources engineering disciplines;
  3. Are proficient in one or more of the ocean and resources engineering disciplines;
  4. Are aware of professional, managerial, legal, ethical, and other non-technical issues commonly encountered in engineering practice;
  5. Can communicate and work effectively with peers, clients, and the general public in promoting new ideas, products, or designs; and
  6. Can adapt to the changing needs and technology of the ocean and resources industry.
The program at the PhD level shares these objectives with the additional emphasis to produce graduates who:
  1. Are productive researchers conducting original research and developing new technology in ocean and resources engineering; and
  2. Have the experience to publish in refereed journals.

This additional emphasis prepares the PhD graduate to pursue research careers in the industry or academia.

Admission Requirements

Students are admitted for graduate study on the basis of their scholastic records. Applicants for the MS program usually have a bachelor's degree in an engineering discip­line that provides an adequate background in mathematics, science, and mechanics. Students with mathematics, physics, or other science back­grounds may be admitted to the program, but are required to take specific undergraduate courses to satisfy the pre-program requirements, which include one year of college-level mathematics and science, one and one-half years of basic engineering topics, and a general education component complementing the technical content of the curriculum. Official scores in the GRE general test are required for all MS applicants.

Students seeking admission to the PhD program should have an MS in engineering or equivalent qualification. However, exceptionally well‑qualified students with a BS in engineering, who do not have a master's degree, may petition to be admitted to the PhD program directly. Official scores in the GRE General Test are required for all PhD applicants.

Master’s Degree

The MS degree in ocean and resources engineering may be earned under either Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis). The program requires a minimum of 30 credit hours. At least 24 credit hours must be earned in advanced courses numbered 600 or above. Up to 2 credit hours of directed reading and 6 transferred credits can be counted toward the MS requirements. Students are required to take the general examination during the first semester of their full-time enrollment to test their knowledge in mathematics, science, and basic engineering. Passing the examination advances the student to master's candidacy.

Students generally devote their first semester to the basic disciplines in ocean and resources engineering and then specialize in coastal, ocean resources, or offshore engineering by taking the required courses in the area. The core courses ORE 411, 601, 603, 607, and 609 cover the basic disciplines that include hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, oceanography, water waves, underwater acoustics, and field and laboratory work. One credit of seminars, ORE 792, is also included in the core requirements. The required courses are ORE 661, 664, and 783B in coastal engineering; ORE 612, 630 ,and 783C in offshore engineering; and ORE 677, 678, and 783D in ocean resources engineering. The ORE 783 Capstone Design Project is team-taught by faculty members and practicing professional engineers to prepare students for the engineering profession. The core and required courses amount to 25 credit hours and the remaining credits are to be chosen to form a coherent plan of study.

Students complete their study with a Plan A thesis or a Plan B independent project. The thesis option is research oriented and students receive 6 academic credits for the work. The project option focuses on engineering application or design and carries 3 academic credits. Both require a proposal outlining the subject area, objectives, proposed methodology, sources of data, and anticipated results that must be approved by a committee of at least three graduate faculty members. The work results in a thesis or a report that demonstrates both mastery of the subject matter and a high level of communication skills. Students must present and defend the work at a final examination, which provides the faculty an opportunity to test the students' understanding and ability to integrate their work at the MS level.

The general and final examination may be repeated once. The general examination must be taken earlier than the semester in which the final examination is taken.

PhD Degree

Students pursuing the PhD degree are required to achieve a broad understanding of the principal areas of ocean and resources engineering, as well as a thorough understanding of a specific area. Students must, at a minimum, possess the knowledge covered by the core courses of the MS degree in ocean and resources engineering.

All intended candidates for the PhD degree will take a written qualifying examination before or during the third semester of full-time enrollment. In addition to covering the basic undergraduate fundamentals, the examination tests the students' understanding of the course work at the MS level. After passing the examination and being advanced to candidacy, students must take a comprehensive examination, which tests their ability to carry out original research and preparation for the selected dissertation topic.

The dissertation topic must be approved by a committee consisting of a minimum of five graduate faculty members with at least one outside member. Students are encouraged to publish the research work in refereed journals in order to obtain feedback from the research community and to develop a publication track record prior to graduation. They must present and defend the novelty of the dissertation at a final examination.

The qualifying and comprehensive examinations may each be repeated only once. The final examination may not be repeated, except with approval of the graduate faculty involved and the dean of the Graduate Division.

The application deadline for fall semester is January 15 for both U.S. and foreign applicants. The application deadline for spring semester is August 1 for foreign applicants, and September 1 for U.S. applicants.


Upon admission, the department chair meets with each incoming student at a preliminary conference to discuss the program requirements and determine any pre-program deficiencies. The student identifies a major area of study, and selects an academic advisor from the departmental faculty. The department chair serves as the academic advisor to the students without an undergraduate engineering degree until they satisfy the pre-program requirements and select academic advisors from their areas of study. The academic advisors review the coursework of the students every semester until they progress to the research stage and are advised by their MS or PhD committees. The research advisors are also tasked to monitor the students for three years after their graduation. All the information is recorded in the student progress form, which provides data for subsequent program assessments.

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