The Team

Ship Location

Channel Islands, USA

Mary Nichols

Photo of Mary Nichols
Video Engineer
Retired Professor
Middle Tennessee State University

Tell us about your work/ research. What kinds of things do you do? 

I am now retired from full-time teaching at the University, but I do volunteer my time working as a video engineer on the MTSU HD Production truck. We work several location projects per semester around the middle Tennessee area, including Nashville. In retirement, I've been able to spend more time on video engineering and will be attending the Olympics in Rio this summer as a maintenance engineer on the NBC team.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

My career started in print and photojournalism. In photographing certain news stories I realized that storytelling was a large part of my interest. I began teaching photography part-time and decided I much preferred teaching. I returned to school for my advanced degrees and focused my attention on video production and documentaries in particular. I produced several documentaries on Tennessee old time music and musicians. During that time I met a friend who worked with Dr. Ballard. The team was looking for a video production assistant and my time with JASON and Nautilus began. I've been working with Dr. Ballard on projects since 1997.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My first influence outside of school was the print editor I worked with on my first photojournalism job. She encouraged me to write more and encouraged me to write news around the story the facts presented. She taught me to follow my instincts and that you can learn from every one of your experiences. 

What element of your work/ study do you think is the most fascinating?

As a video engineer on board Nautilus I find it fascinating to see through the lens that which no one has ever seen... places where no one has been and discover what no one has yet discovered. I learn from every person I meet on board Nautilus and I've made friends I will have for life. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?  

I was involved with the JASON project several years ago and then began working on sea exploration with Dr. Ballard by traveling to Lost City in the Atlantic in 2005. I worked hard to learn the video system and the procedures for a successful expedition and have enjoyed returning for the last 17 years.

What other jobs led you to your current career? 

My years in the video industry have included print and photojournalism, corporate video, documentary production and one feature film. My writing skills and visual aesthetic are two of the most valuable tools for this industry. Making many friends along the way is also helpful in landing the next best thing.

What are your degrees and certifications?

My degrees include B.S. Communication - Clarion State College 1982; M.S. Communication - University of PA 1983; Ph.D. Mass Communication Research - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 1994.

What are your hobbies?

Since my retirement, I have spent much of my time working in my wood shop. I make furniture, rocking chairs and hand crafted boxes. I also have time to travel and have been to several countries. I will be going to Brazil this summer and China in the fall. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?  

My advice to the younger generations interested in my career is to learn your craft, keep your eyes open to everything going on around you and tell others what you see and how it makes you feel. Tell stories. Write stories. Video your stories. Make friends, you never know who can help you hone your craft. Learn everything you can about anything that fascinates you. Then share.




"Since I retired from Middle Tennessee State University I've been doing a lot of traveling and look forward to another great series of expeditions with the EV Nautilus in 2016. It's exciting to see what's under the earth's oceans!"