If you had asked me when I was in 8th grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I may have said a teacher or a lawyer or a doctor. Growing up in West Michigan, the prospect of being an oceanographic researcher wasn’t really on my radar (or sonar!) but here I am ready to embark on an oceanographic experiment in the Philippine Sea.
I recently started a research position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering. When we started this blog last year, I was a postdoctoral research scholar (postdoc) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where I had also earned my Ph.D. in 2009. Before that, I got a B.S. in Engineering from Hope College. It may seem like a big jump to go from engineering to oceanography, but there was an important link between them: Acoustics!
Math and Science were always my favorite subjects in school but I also enjoyed playing in flute choirs and wind symphonies and teaching and performing piano. I read a magazine article that profiled an acoustical engineer and I thought that studying the science of sound was a great way to link these two very different interests. Through the website for the Acoustical Society of America, I found a summer internship opportunity to study ocean acoustics and headed off to San Diego. I spent the summer learning about how sound is used under water and I actually had the opportunity to go out on a ship for an at-sea experiment…that was all it took to get me hooked!
Performing experiments at sea is a lot of hard work, as you will see from later posts in this blog, but it is also a lot of fun and can be quite an adventure! We are going to take you first to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where we are staging the experiment and then out on a ship into the Philippine Sea. Look for me on the pictures and videos…I’ll be the one with the pink hard hat!
I am an electrical engineer who studies sound in the ocean and loves to spend time on research ships. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but I've also lived in Florida, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The first job I can remember wanting to have was archeologist, mostly due to a fascination with an Egyptian exhibit that was touring the U.S. My passion for mummies eventually faded, but my interest in science did not. In high school I happened to read about careers in biomedical engineering. That sparked my interest in becoming an engineer, and led me to the engineering school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK).
As a UTK student, I was fortunate to work as a intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for three summers. At Oak Ridge I worked on a project involving sonar signal processing, and based on this experience I decided I wanted to be a signal processor. After finishing my bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, I went on to graduate school at MIT. My advisor recommended that I apply to the Joint Program MIT has with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Since WHOI students get to go out on a 10-day cruise in the Atlantic on a 125-foot sailboat, I immediately said yes!
Today I'm a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at George Mason University. I have a lot of fun teaching signal processing courses and doing research on ocean sound propagation. In 2009-2010 I spent the year at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. So far I've been studying ocean noise in the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea and analyzing how sound propagates under ice shelves in the polar regions.
I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures onboard the R/V Revelle in the Philippine Sea. I'll be the one tossing sonobuoys overboard (see photo). If they ever make sonobuoy tossing an Olympic sport, I plan to try out for the U.S. Team!