What attracted a native of Southern California to become a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston?
Location. Location. Location.
“UMass Boston is a great place to be,” Professor of Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences Bob Chen says.
The university provides “access to all kinds of students and top-notch research, intersecting land, ocean, and humans,” he adds.
UMass Boston has a fleet of vessels that provide ample research opportunities to students and faculty members. Its location right on Boston Harbor is ideal for studying oceanography and other courses the School for the Environment offers.
Chen studies the movement of carbon from land to ocean. His students follow the flow of the fresh water from the Neponset River watershed into the Boston Harbor estuary, a mixture of fresh water and salt water, which leads to Massachusetts Bay.
“They call me an urban oceanographer because I study the ocean water right off Morrissey Boulevard," he says.
Chen refers to his class as a “teaching laboratory” and likes to experiment with different uses of technology and methods of instruction. He works closely with his graduate students in small groups and enjoys the challenge of “teaching other teachers.” His course on energy, through the Boston Energy in Science Teaching project, has attracted teachers who want to become more proficient in innovative teaching methods.
National recognition and international impact
Chen has won many awards for his work in education and outreach, including the UMass President's Public Service Award.
He has earned national recognition from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 2010, he and a colleague led a U.S. delegation to Beijing, China to promote ocean literacy through the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE). Graduate students met Chinese scientists, educators, and government officials during a two-day workshop sharing their expertise in ocean science education.