Living the Dream


It’s right up there with firefighter and rock star. Children dream of being marine biologists when they grow up.

Since its early days as a small marine biological station, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has been the go-to place for prospective Ph.D. students dreaming of careers in marine biology. Over the past century, the institution’s scope has expanded to include studies of land, air, sea, and life.

Recently, Scripps education programs have grown again, now to include more and more undergraduate students majoring in Scripps sciences. In particular, the highly anticipated marine biology major that launched in Fall 2012 is proving to be very popular. Enrollments have doubled–from 70 to 142–in just one year.

When UC San Diego undergraduate student Tsz Fung (Garfield) Kwan got wind that a marine biology major was in the making, he was immediately interested. A junior at the time who was originally a psychology major, Kwan discovered his love for marine biology while serving as a student worker in the lab of Scripps Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Stuart Sandin.

“That job really made me realize that being a marine biologist could actually happen,” said Kwan.

While he waited for the marine biology major to launch, Kwan pursued his newly discovered interests, getting permission to take upper division Scripps courses as electives to help him get a head start on the degree.

He officially enrolled in the major shortly thereafter, and this June joined the first class of undergraduate students to graduate from UC San Diego with a marine biology degree. His hard work and enthusiasm also earned him the very first Outstanding Marine Biology Undergraduate Student Award.

Kwan’s studies at Scripps not only allowed him to follow his passion, they also provided him valuable educational opportunities to work in a lab, serve as a teaching assistant, conduct research at sea, and even become a certified science diver.

Now that he’s graduated from UC San Diego, Kwan will spend the next year volunteering as an English tutor for low-income South East Asian refugees in the City Heights community of San Diego. He’ll also be applying to graduate schools, especially at Scripps, where Kwan hopes to join his mentors and start a Ph.D. degree in Fall 2014.

“You can tell everyone at Scripps loves what they’re doing, and it’s contagious,” he said.

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