Johann Becker headshot photo

Johann Becker

PhD Student
University of Rhode Island

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

As a graduate student in ocean engineering, I specialize in developing and utilizing oceanographic instruments for ocean exploration and remote sensing. I have a particular interest in developing low-cost, small, and capable equipment to open ocean research to a broader scope of researchers and regions. My current work focuses on developing oceanographic applications of distributed sensing. Distributed sensing synoptically measures temperature or pressure along an optical fiber with high spatiotemporal resolution. So far, this work has allowed me to explore many ocean environments from coastal New England estuaries to deep hydrothermal vent fields in the South Pacific. But there are potential applications of this technology all around the world, and even on other planets.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I knew I was interested in studying the ocean from a young age. Some of my best memories growing are swimming in ocean waves, combing the beach for interesting shells, and exploring tidepools. When I went to college, I decided to double major in Marine Biology and Ocean Engineering and after a few classes I was hooked. After a year of working as a mechanical engineer, I decided to return to graduate school and focus back on ocean research and instrumentation. The ocean is Earth’s greatest resource, and yet so little is known about the complex interconnectivity of its organisms and habitats. I want to be a part of unraveling the ocean’s mysteries and learning how humankind can have a more sustainable relationship with it.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My grandfather has been a big inspiration to me. He strived to understand how and why things were, and worked relentlessly to achieve his goals. Throughout my life he encouraged me to be curious, and helped me understand the power of hard work.

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

I really enjoy working on problems with an interdisciplinary team of researchers. I find learning how people with different backgrounds approach a problem fascinating and inspiring. Further, achieving a goal that would not have been possible as individuals is a great feeling!

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

My first experience with the Ocean Exploration Trust was in 2015, when I worked as a watchstander at the Inner Space Center during my undergrad. In 2023, I was searching for more field and applied experience in my field, and I was given the opportunity to join the Nautilus Exploration team as a Navigator and Mapper.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

As a PhD student, I’m still in the process of developing my career, but I have had great opportunities through internships and lab experiences that have shaped and changed my original ideas of what I want to do. Experiences like studying monk seal populations, shark tagging and tracking, surveying coral reef health, mapping neuromasts on fish, and scuba diving have made me wat to focus on the technology behind the science. Further, jobs in the engineering industry have made me steered me towards focusing on sustainable technology with environmental applications. And finally, fieldwork experiences globally have inspired my interest in working on capable, small, and affordable scientific equipment.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology -- University of Rhode Island 2018, Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering -- University of Rhode Island 2018

What are your hobbies?

I love exploring nature. My hobbies include camping, snorkeling, Ultimate frisbee, rock climbing, really anything that lets me get outdoors.

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

For someone interested in marine technologies, I would strongly recommend being proactive, and gaining diverse experience and knowledge. Engineering, especially in an R&D field such as this, is about solving problems, and opening doors to new ways to understand and interact with our world. Applying knowledge or inspiration from other fields can be really useful. Think creatively, think flexibly, and find what gets you excited. I highly recommend finding opportunities for hands on experience.


Johann participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: