Team
Gibson Clark headshot

Gibson Clark

ROV Engineering Intern
Undergraduate
The University of British Columbia

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

While working towards a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering, I am conducting research at the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). My current work focuses on employing wavelength modulation spectroscopy (WMS) to understand methane (CH4) emissions from heavy-duty natural gas engines. CH4 absorbs incident light at very distinct wavelengths. We take advantage of this by firing a laser into an exhaust gas sample and measuring how much of that laser comes out the other end to ultimately determine important exhaust gas characteristics, such as temperature and CH4 concentration. My work with CERC includes experimenting with high-speed flow visualization techniques, signal processing, and digital data analysis in MATLAB. When not in the lab, I am tackling my courses and exciting design competitions. In the past, these have included an autonomous manipulator, a small-scale electric train, and a remote-control hovercraft.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

From Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” to Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth,” I have grown up attempting to feed an insatiable love for human discovery and exploration. Living on Canada’s West Coast and experiencing the vast unexploredness of the oceans, my pursuit of the unknown quickly morphed into a fascination for the cutting-edge technology that enables us to explore further, dive deeper, and fly higher. I became eager to help piece together new knowledge from extreme environments to understand and protect life here at home, on the Earth’s surface. Studying Mechanical Engineering now fuels my passion for the technology that augments humanity’s capacity to explore and I plan to continue my studies into graduate school after this first leg of my post-secondary journey is complete.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My family is my biggest source of encouragement. They have always been an unwavering support network who endorse my passions, encourage my pursuits, and catch me when I stumble. From leading multi-night kayak trips in the Straight of Georgia to funding my inner bookworm, I know I have them to thank for igniting my sense of wonder. A secondary-school instructor, Carl Savage, taught me to turn this sense of wonder into a fuel that powers my pursuit of scientific exploration today. While Carl ensured I knew my physics and astronomy like the back of my hand, he was truly influential by teaching more than just the curriculum. He bolstered my love for life-long learning, shared the value of intrinsic motivation, and saw me merge my academic and career trajectory with my interest in technology and discovery. On the growing list of those, I must thank for supporting my developmental journey, Carl is entry number one.

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

The most fascinating aspect of my current studies are the people: the plethora of peers I learn from and work with while studying engineering. To be immersed in a sea of diversity where people come from different backgrounds, are powered by different passions and aim for different goals, yet possess the very same sense of grit, drive and determination is a veritably inspirational experience. My fascination comes from recognizing that while I train to build capacity for surmounting challenges and improving the lives of those in my own spheres of influence, everyone around me is doing the very same thing. It is something like a “go-us” moment of realization. It also doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by so many capable classmates, because it means I have countless avenues to turn down for help when I get stuck! I have found I can learn and achieve so much more by working in this big team of people than I ever could alone.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Summer positions and co-ops play an invaluable role in forming the direction of my undergraduate career thus far. I seek out variety because it allows me to learn from people and develop skills across a broad range of disciplines. I held my first engineering position as a field survey assistant for a Civil Engineering Consulting firm in my hometown of Parksville, BC where I got a fantastic mix of field and data analysis work – a balance that I began prioritizing in future roles. Since then, I have also worked with a building automation company and voluntary research positions. Most recently I had the privilege to work with a wonderful marine acoustics company as a field engineering co-op. Between conducting deployments and recoveries of real-time hydroacoustic monitoring equipment, I got my hand's dirty servicing and maintaining the moorings and put my computational skills to the test producing reports on the acoustic data I was collecting. During the same time, I began a volunteer role training with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue. These works accelerated my literacy in marine operations and engineering and further solidified my desire to work with OET.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering – University of British Columbia 2022; PADI Open Water Certified Diver; Emergency First Aid for Industry (OFA1); CPR-C; Marine Emergency Duties A1, A2, A3; Dassault Systems Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate; Restricted Operator’s Certificate – Marine (ROC-M)

What are your hobbies?

I was raised on beach-combing and tide-pooling, so I feel most at-home searching for critters and natural treasures at the ocean’s edge. On the water, I love the serenity of glassy-ocean kayaks among sunsets and sea lions, but I also have an affinity for the shear, turbulent power of West Coast waves as they pick me up on my surfboard and hurtle me towards the beach. Off-the-water, I enjoy attempting to teach myself to play the piano or the guitar and I am always one for a good book. Scuba diving and telescoping battle it out to claim the title of ‘favorite hobby’—for there is something incredibly humbling about both gazing out into the Milky Way or down into the ocean depths and realizing just how out-of-our-element humans are beyond Earth’s surface. This is where my passion for the technology that empowers us to explore these environments originates.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Program?

I have been watching Nautilus Live highlights since the 2015 ECOGIG Expedition, and my interest in the Nautilus Exploration Program has compounded year after year. My father, who is a marine biologist and works with ROVs himself, has never missed a chance to share the exciting aspects of marine science and exploration with me. It was discussions with him and his work that first put the OET SEIP opportunity on my radar. After developing my engineering knowledge at university and honing my skills in a co-op job deploying and maintaining oceanographic equipment, I applied.

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

Upon arriving at university I received some advice from a graduating engineering student that has since rooted itself in my head-space. I hope it may continue to resonate with others who are entering their field of study. It is important to view your post-secondary pursuits as an investment in yourself. It is a time to explore opportunities, discover passions, and improve your personality. Many of your pursuits, and most definitely university, can take a great deal of time, money, and effort, but you truly do get out what you put in. This is why I believe engineering is such a phenomenal field of study because it is a program that lets you put in more than you ever imagined was humanly possible. If you’re searching for the right direction to lead your pursuits, aim your educational and career aspirations on a collision course with your personal passions and don’t hold back. It can give you that extra boost you need, and then some.