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General Information


Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology

Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute

Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium

Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory

International Pacific Research Center

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Pacific Biosciences Research Center

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


*Graduate Faculty

E. Nosal, PhD (Chair)—passive acoustic monitoring methods, ocean ambient noise, sediment acoustics, bioacoustics
*J. C. Wiltshire, PhD (Associate Chair)—submersibles, ROV, marine minerals, marine mining technology
*K. F. Cheung, PhD (Graduate Chair)—coastal and offshore engineering, marine hydrodynamics, computational methods, water wave mechanics, coastal flood hazards
*B. M. Howe, PhD—acoustical and physical oceanography, tomography, sensors and network infrastructure
*Z. Huang, PhD—coastal and ocean engineering, wave-structure interactions, wave energy conversion, natural hazards-tsunamis, coastal sediment transport, coral reef hydrodynamics
*G. C. Nihous, PhD—ocean thermal energy conversion, marine renewable energy

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

J. M. Becker, PhD—general ocean circulation
M. Chyba, PhD—control theory
O. P. Francis, PhD—coastal engineering
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
J. Yu, PhD—marine bioproducts engineering

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

B. D. Greeson, PhD—offshore engineering, hydrodynamics, ROV/submersible operations
E. Pawlak, PhD—coastal mixing processes, fluid dynamics, sediment transport
D. Rezachek, PhD—ocean energy and engineering design
D. A. Smith, PhD—near-shore processes and coastal engineering
L. J. Van Uffenlen, PhD—acoustical oceanography, oceanographic instrumentation
D. Vithanage, PhD—coastal engineering, nearshore circulation

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

The Academic Program

Ocean and Resources Engineering (ORE) 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, marine instrumentation, 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 in ORE is placed on coastal, offshore, ocean resources, and oceanographic engineering. Coastal engineering deals with coastal and harbor problems, sediment transport, near-shore environmental engineering, and coastal flood hazards. Offshore engineering is concerned with structures and systems used in the deeper parts of the ocean and includes hydrodynamics of fluid-body interaction, sea-keeping and dynamic responses of ships and platforms, and hydro-elasticity of floating structures. Ocean resources engineering considers the engineering systems needed to develop the ocean’s energy, mineral, and living resources, the potential use of the ocean for waste disposal, and the environmental and economic aspects of such activities. Oceanographic engineering involves the design, operation, and maintenance of the mechanical, electrical, and computing technology and instrumentation that supports oceanographic and marine operations. Students can also pursue interdisciplinary studies that cater to the rapidly evolving aspects of ocean engineering, and that bridge ocean engineering with other marine disciplines.

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, two ocean-going vessels operated by SOEST, two 2000m depth submersibles operated by the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Lab, and a new 6000m ROV which services the ALOHA Cable Observatory (ACO). ACO is the deepest operating node (power and internet) on the planet. ACO provides real time acoustic monitoring and communication.

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 38% of the students graduating between Fall 2007–Fall 2013 found immediate employment in private industry including oil companies, engineering firms, environmental service firms and construction companies in the U.S. About 13% joined or continued their employment with federal or state agencies; 28% continued studies either by pursuing a higher degree or a post-doctoral position; 6% were employed by UH in engineering research positions; 4% returned to their countries of origin pursuing engineering; 2% received a tenure-track faculty position; and 9% decided to pursue non-engineering positions. 62% of the graduates stayed in Hawai’i.

Graduate Study

Educational Objectives

ORE 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:
  7. Are productive researchers conducting original research and developing new technology in ocean and resources engineering; and
  8. 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. Candidates for the MS program usually have a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline that provides an adequate background in mathematics, and mechanics. Students seeking admission to the PhD program should have an MS in engineering or equivalent qualification. 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. Students with mathematics, physics, or other science backgrounds may be admitted to the program, but are required to take specific undergraduate engineering courses to satisfy the pre-program requirements.

Deadlines to submit applications for admission to the graduate programs are January 15 for fall semester admission and August 15 for spring semester admission. The ORE application checklist (available on the ORE website) lists all the forms and supporting documents that need to be submitted; some forms and documents are submitted to Graduate Division while others are submitted directly to the ORE department.

Detailed Graduate Division requirements and forms are available at Official scores in the GRE General Test are required from all applicants. Official TOEFL or IELTS scores are required from all non-native English speaking students.

Forms required by the department can be downloaded from the ORE admissions webpage at

  • supplemental information form
  • statement of objectives
  • letter of recommendation form
  • graduate assistantship application

Once an application is complete, Graduate Division performs an initial screening to assure that admission requirements are satisfied. The Admission Committee and graduate chair then evaluate the application and determine the admissibility of the applicant to the ORE department.

Master’s Degree

The MS degree is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and has the following requirements: Pre-program; MS General Exam; Core, option-area, and elective courses, and; MS thesis (Plan A) or independent project (Plan B).

The pre-program (which includes a general education component, one year of college-level mathematics and science, and one and one-half years of engineering topics) provides students with a broad educational background that covers the technical and non-technical issues commonly encountered by engineers in professional practice. Students with an undergraduate engineering degree from an ABET accredited program satisfy the pre-program requirements a priori. Not all students in the program have an undergraduate degree in engineering. The department requires these students to make up any deficiencies by completing required pre-program courses.

Students who satisfy the pre-program requirements must take the general examination during the first semester of their full-time enrollment. This test is used to gauge incoming student’s knowledge of mathematics, science, and basic engineering principles, as well as their preparation for graduate-level course work. Students requiring pre-program work must take the general examination in the first semester following the completion of their pre-program, and prior to their semester of graduation. The general examination may be repeated once. Passing this exam advances the student to master’s candidacy. Students who have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination within the three years prior to their admission to ORE are exempted from taking the general examination.

The core courses (ORE 411, 601, 603, and 607) provide students with a broad understanding of the topics of interest to ocean and resources engineering discipline. This includes hydrostatics, oceanography, water wave mechanics, underwater acoustics, and a laboratory course that connects material covered in the classroom with observations made and data collected in the ocean. Option-area courses prepare students for specialization in coastal, offshore, ocean resources, and oceanographic engineering, or an interdisciplinary field of study. A required capstone design project is typically team-taught by faculty members and practicing professional engineers. Its objective is to familiarize students with the planning and design of an engineering project in a consulting firm setting. All MS students are required to attend 15 seminars which cover the latest in developments and research–as well as contemporary issues–related to ocean and resources engineering. Elective courses are chosen meet the 30 credit degree requirement and to form a coherent plan of study.

Students complete their study with a thesis (Plan A) or independent project (Plan B). The thesis is research oriented and carries six academic credits. The independent project focuses on engineering application and design and carries three academic credits. Both require a proposal outlining the subject area, objectives, proposed methodology, sources of data, and anticipated results, and must be approved by a committee of at least three graduate faculty members. The thesis/project provides students with an opportunity to explore and contribute to the development of the latest technology in an ocean and resources engineering discipline. This work results in a thesis (Plan A) or a report (Plan B) that should demonstrate both mastery of the subject matter and an aptitude for clear and effective communication. The student must present and defend their work at a final examination which may be repeated once.

PhD Degree

Students pursuing a PhD are required to achieve a broad understanding of the principal areas of ocean and resources engineering, as well as a thorough understanding of their research area. Students are expected to have knowledge related to fundamental engineering courses (i.e., MS basic engineering pre-program requirements) as well as the core courses of the ORE MS degree. Doctoral students are also encouraged to take courses relevant to their research interests.

The ORE program at the PhD level has the following requirements: PhD qualifying exam; An advanced mathematics course at the graduate level and ORE 792 Seminar; PhD comprehensive exam, and; PhD dissertation and defense.
All intended PhD candidates are expected to take a qualifying examination, preferably before or during the third semester of full-time enrollment. In addition to covering basic undergraduate mathematics and engineering fundamentals, the examination tests the students’ understanding of the core courses of the ORE MS degree. The examination is conducted by ORE’s PhD qualifying exam committee and the outcome is determined by a vote of the departmental faculty. The qualifying examination may be repeated only once.

After passing the qualifying examination and advancing to candidacy, the student forms a dissertation committee and begins preparing their dissertation proposal. Upon completion of their dissertation proposal, the student must take a comprehensive examination which is conducted by the dissertation committee. This is meant to measure the student’s preparation and ability to conduct original research in the area of their proposed dissertation topic. The examination consists of a presentation of the student’s proposed research followed by an oral component in which the student must defend the novelty of their proposed research, address any issues raised by the committee, and demonstrate his/her ability to successfully conduct the proposed research. The comprehensive examination may be repeated only once.

PhD students are expected to publish their research in refereed journals. This provides feedback from the research community while developing a publication track record prior to graduation. The student must present and defend their dissertation at a final examination, which is conducted by the dissertation committee. This examination may not be repeated except with approval from the graduate faculty involved and the Dean of Graduate Division, which has additional rules pertaining to the defense.


Upon admission, the ORE department chair meets with each incoming student at a preliminary conference to discuss the program requirements. The ORE graduate chair will reconfirm any pre-program deficiencies for students from non-ABET accredited undergraduate programs through evaluation of transcripts and course descriptions.

The ORE graduate chair serves as the advisor to students who do not meet the pre-program requirements. Once pre-program requirements are met, the ORE department chair appoints an academic advisor from the pool of ORE departmental faculty. The academic advisor helps student navigate the program requirements and ensures that all university and department guidelines are met. At the onset of their research, students must select a research advisor to guide their research and serve as their committee chair.

ORE Courses