Thomas Drake headshot photo

Thomas Drake

Head of Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department
Office of Naval Research

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

The Office of Naval Research supports a broad spectrum of environmental sciences, including oceanography, marine meteorology, coastal sciences, ocean acoustics, marine geology and geophysics, among others. ONR also supports development of observational technologies including autonomous vehicles. My Department supports over 1000 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to ensure a future cadre of scientists and engineers to address critical scientific issues.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I'm a surfaces processes geologist interested from a very young age in how water sculpts the earth's landscape. I was very fortunate to have a high school summer job measuring streams in the Pacific Northwest for the US Geological Survey. Wading mountain creeks in the shadow of Mt. Rainier is about as good as it gets, and when I went to college I naturally gravitated to geology.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

A family friend introduced me to the head of the Geological Survey in Tacoma as a high school junior, and it was off to the races from there.

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

I'm amazed at the intellectual breadth and creativity of the young scientists and engineers that we support at the Office of Naval Research.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

The Office of Naval Research has been proud to work alongside Dr. Ballard and Ocean Exploration Trust for many years.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I followed an academic path before joining the Office of Naval Research.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Geology, MIT, 1980; PhD in Geology from UCLA, 1988

What are your hobbies?

Playing the piano and hiking

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

Jump on every opportunity to do interesting things. I went to Antarctica because a geology friend needed someone to cart heavy rocks around on a snowmobile.


Thomas participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: