Gambling on Oceanography in Hawaii: The Risk Was Worth The Reward

By Sean Jungbluth

Sean Jungbluth

To describe my path to graduate school, I begin when I first really began entertaining the idea of attending graduate school, which was in my fifth year of university-level work at University of Wisconsin at Madison. I extended my stay in college so that I could pursue Bacteriology as a second major in addition to the general Biology major that I already had obtained. I had sampled a wide variety of classroom and/or research laboratory experiences spanning many biological disciplines during my time as an undergraduate, but ultimately, I really enjoyed the hands-on work performing molecular microbiology based experiments; this sort of lab work really called to me. Inspired by top-quality professors, I knew that I wanted to perform some type of microbial genetics based research for a career.

I interviewed for several jobs within the Biochemistry and Zoology departments after graduation, but ultimately my diversity of experiences allowed me to find a job at a biotechnology business in the Madison-area where they make products for molecular biology. I really enjoyed my time working at this company and continued to expand my knowledge and technique base; however, my desire to continue my education was something that prevented me from getting too comfortable being a staff scientist at a biotechnology firm. I was working there for a few months before talking with a college friend, who happened to be moving to Hawaii. I was asked if I, and my girlfriend – now wife – wanted to take a chance and move out there with him. Not fully content with our employment situations and ready to take a big risk, we decided to take a chance and move to the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I began looking seriously into graduate programs offered in Hawaii as soon as we made the decision to move there, and quickly decided to apply to the University of Hawaii at Manoa for graduate school. I had done my research and knew that this school had a high-rated Oceanography program, so I decided to take a big chance and apply because, like many people, I find the ocean to be an exciting frontier of exploration. I was able to narrow down a list of professors that I would enjoy working for quite quickly and did my best to contact them in hopes of identifying potential opportunities. Perhaps some of that networking paid off because when applications were reviewed, surprisingly, I was offered a graduate assistant position studying the microbial life at the bottom of the ocean. This still amazes me; I still feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to be picked to do this sort of work, so I cherish every minute of it.

Sean Jungbluth is a PhD student in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His research utilizes deep-sea submersibles and molecular tools to look into the nature and diversity of microbial life living within the deep subseafloor. Besides science, he also enjoys current events, scuba diving, surfing, reading, Frisbee, and laughing.

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One thought on “Gambling on Oceanography in Hawaii: The Risk Was Worth The Reward

  1. Congratulations on your decision and move. We made the same decision last year. Scary as it was – giving up security, jobs, family and friends, it was the best thing we’ve ever done. Living your dream is awesome, and I hope only the best for you.

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