Kevin Zack stands in front of the ocean

Kevin Zack

Science/Data Team
Senior Electrical Engineer
Applied Physics Lab - University of Washington

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

I specialize in electrical design and build of oceanographic instruments and platforms. At APL I get to be on projects from conception to deployment. My main focus is circuit boards and programming of microcontrollers, but I also get to build up the harnesses and perform testing. It keeps my experiences varied and interesting. I also like the challenge of working in harsh environments, I started my career working on the power and communication systems of CubeSats. Now I get to build instruments that go into the depths of the ocean.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

When I was an undergrad studying physics I was given the opportunity to help design and build the first 3P PocketQube satellite, T-LogoQube. It successfully launched and seeing the packets stream down from space from a 630 km orbit I knew I wanted to design instruments to enable science. I wanted to blend my love of physics with my interest in building things. I was able to continue to grow that enthusiasm for facilitating science in grad school while working on two more satellites. At APL I get to build instruments to acquire useful data.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My undergrad advisor Dr. Garrett Jernigan has influenced me the most. To this day I still quote his design philosophies.

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

The most fascinating part of my work is the sheer variation in what I do. One day I will be building floats that use sonar to monitor herring populations and then the next I will be writing a program to do long-term drift calibration of a dissolved gas sensor.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I was a research engineer at the Space Science and Engineering Laboratory. It taught me how to handle circuit boards, work with sensitive instrumentation, and most importantly documentation. I also worked at L3 with a focus on EMI which has been important in my current job keeping electrical noise out of the science data products. Prior to becoming an Electrical Engineer, I was a Journeyman Electrician which has helped me anytime when working on large equipment I know I can work safely.

What are your degrees and certifications?

A.A Liberal Arts and Science, Santa Rosa Junior College, 2006; B.S Physics, Sonoma State University, 2014; M.S Electrical Engineering, Montana State University, 2017

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies are electronics, 3D printing, and programming, which also happens to be my job! I also enjoy gardening and kayaking.

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

Take every opportunity you can that involves making something, from hobbies to school clubs. Hands-on learning experience is key. And if you can be, be involved in education outreach. Nothing will teach you something better than getting to explain it to someone else.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I was the lead electrical engineer on the InVADER project which will be deployed on this cruise. I am engineering support for the instrument.


Kevin participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: