- Q&A with Trip Leader Regina Yopak
- Q&A with Trip Leader Gaston Lacombe
- Q&A with Trip Leader Ross Weinberg
- Q&A with Trip Leader Nathalie Chardon
- Q&A with Trip Leader Chris Johns
- Q&A with Trip Leader Steve Byrne
- Q&A with Trip Leader Ricky Qi
- Q&A with Trip Leader Claire Bangser
- Q&A with Trip Leader Nicole Büttner
Q&A with Trip Leader Regina Yopak
Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. in Ocean Engineering at the University of Rhode Island, Regina worked as a research SCUBA diver for the Coastal & Ocean Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Regina’s doctoral work focuses on computer vision and biophysical interactions, and she recently spent time in Antarctica collecting data on Antarctic krill. For the past four years she has been sailing aboard the E/V Nautilus as a lead navigator for ROVs Hercules and Argus.
You’ll be leading our MIT University Workshop this summer. What is your connection to MIT, the University of Rhode Island, and the topics students will explore during the program?
I’m finishing my graduate degree in ocean engineering at the University of Rhode Island and am excited to introduce students to the campus and our work. MIT is a special place for me because it was where I was hired for my first job out of undergrad—as a technical instructor for an experimental physics lab. I love working in the marine environment, and I’ve worked with various remotely operated vehicles, navigation systems, imaging suites, and data engineering systems. Stewarding science through engineering is where I feel like I am making the biggest impact in my community. During our program, I hope to impress upon students that STEM is universally important to any career they choose!
What part of each trip are you most excited for students to experience this summer?
I am so excited for the students to experience the variety of the science and engineering labs [at MIT]. Watching students’ faces while touring and working on projects at the MIT Media Lab last summer was a joy. For many, it was their first time being in an environment that is focused on ingenuity and creativity, which is so liberating.
Any pieces of advice for aspiring scientists?
Always try, and do not be afraid to get it wrong the first time. So often we’re discouraged if we don’t perform a task perfectly the first time, or design something that fails at first attempt. Learning to fail is a skill, and continuing on with your idea is half the battle for young scientists. I’m still perfecting this skill myself! Know that you aren’t alone and that persistence in the face of failure is more important than instantaneous perfection.
What do you think is the best part of a National Geographic Student Expeditions program?
The best part of a National Geographic trip is how much students learn about interacting with the rest of the world. It’s a chance for them to experience time away from home and build an environment for themselves in which they are comfortable. The experiences we create for students during the trip and traveling outside of their comfort zones both support their development of independent life skills.
Where is the first place you traveled that left a lasting impression on you?
During my fieldwork, I have seen the bottom of the ocean and it feels like you’re staring at another planet. Looking at underwater brine pools and giant hydrothermal vents—with all their associated marine life—reinforces my belief that we haven’t yet learned all there is to know about our planet, or how precious it is, and that exploration is as important as ever.
What are your hobbies, aside from traveling and sharing your insights with National Geographic Student Expeditions travelers?
In my downtime, I enjoy the perks of living near the ocean and spend time on the beach or body surfing. I also dabble in bread baking. There isn’t that much can’t be cured by friends and food.
What item won’t you leave home without when traveling?
If I’m allowed two, I won’t leave home without a water bottle or a journal. I find these two things fill the crucial needs of traveling for me: refreshment and something to fill with thoughts to ponder later!
One fun fact about yourself?
Crosswords—they are one of my favorite past times while in the field. I have trouble leaving them unfinished!