Regina Yopak headshot photo

Regina Yopak

Ocean Engineer

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

My research focus helps biologists answer biophysical or behavioral questions about small fauna in the ocean using images. I develop tools for them to use on images taken with a stereo camera pair. Currently, my lab uses a specialized camera sled to gather the image data, towing the sled behind a research vessel. Most recently the sled was in Antarctica to observe Antarctic krill and next year will hopefully spend time in the North Atlantic. 

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have always loved the sciences. My undergraduate degree is in physics and after participating in an oceanography Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs) funded by that National Science Foundation (NSF) I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in ocean engineering. I really enjoy the mix of hands-on problem solving required in the field and helping scientists by completing engineering tasks for them. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

In college, my physics professors were the ones who really help put things in motion for me. They encouraged collaboration and lots of hands-on learning, they are what kept me in all my math classes (which I did not like!). 

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

I find the amount of information you can get from one image spectacular. Then when an image is combined with its stereo pair, recreating the three-dimensional volume seen by the cameras is kind of like magic. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?  

The lab I graduated from runs/maintains the high-resolution imaging suite on ROV Hercules. I've been helping them maintain the system and thus have enjoyed a close relationship with the Nautilus Exploration team since the start of graduate school. 

What other jobs led you to your current career? 

Before graduate school, I took some time off to work. I was an age-group swim team coach for the Revere Sandshark Swim Club while at the same time I was a Technical Instructor for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Junior Lab (undergraduate course 8.13-8.14) in the physics department. Following MIT, I had the fortune of being hired as a research assistant and science SCUBA diver for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to be part of a team studying volatile estuarine and surf zone environments. These experiences taught me that I love to teach and I love the field, my current role in graduate school lets me do a little of both!

What are your degrees and certifications?

My degrees are a BS in physics (2008) from Simmons College, Boston MA. I graduated with my Masters of Science in Ocean Engineering from University of Rhode Island in 2017. Red Cross AED and CPR certified. NAUI and AAUS SCUBA certified.

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include the outdoors mixed with baked goods. I enjoy swimming, body surfing, travel and bread baking! 

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

My advice to someone interested in a career like mine is don't be afraid to take some time to figure out what you do (and don't) like. There isn't a rush to make a decision on your career immediately so go explore, find hobbies you like, keep taking math classes and spend time with friends. If you want to be a scientist or engineer that spends time in the field or at sea, go find many like-minded friends or mentors who will help new opportunities arise. You never know where the next adventure lies!