Tommy Riparetti headshot photo

Tommy Riparetti

Science Communication Fellow
High School Teacher
San Marcos High School

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

I teach Physics to 9th graders at a public high school. This is my first year teaching and I couldn't be any more excited. I just finished my Masters in Education and my Teaching Credential at the University of Santa Barbara California. This past year I have been working with 7 other Physics teachers to develop new curriculum that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards. This means that we created fun lessons filled with hands on activities so that students understand the scientific practices used to uncover what we have learned about the physical nature of the universe. We ask our students questions like, "How does the redshift provide evidence for the expanding universe?" and task them with projects like, "Design an experiment to determine the relationship between Force, Mass, and Acceleration." In my classroom, I love to see my students feel the excitement of scientific discovery.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I've always been curious and an avid learner. I studied Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology in my undergraduate work at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In this field, I studied DNA and learned the vast and intricate world of the cell. I was interested in how the biology of living things is put together. Basically, I was trying to find out how we are the way we are? I became a Physics teacher because I loved solving physics problems and was wowed by the cool physics demonstrations by my teachers and professors. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I was most influenced by my High School and University teachers. They instilled a passion for science and got my wheels turning about a life in education. 

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

I'm a huge advocate of creating a fun and comfortable classroom community. I love to play guitar and have classroom "campfires" without actual flames as well as practice mindful meditation and breathing exercises with my students. The goal is to make a classroom family and get our brains ready for learning.  

What other jobs led you to your current career?

After undergrad, I worked as a Naturalist and Educator at the Outdoor School at Rancho Alegre. I learned the names of the plants, animals, and stars and lived in a cabin in the woods for three years. It was here that I was bitten by the teaching bug. I fell in love with educating young people and inspiring wonder for the natural world. 

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology; Masters of Education University of Santa Barbara California; Santa Barbara County Beach Lifeguard.

What are your hobbies?

I'm fanatic about surfing. I'm always looking to the best breaks in my area, namely Rincon Point, looking for the perfect wave and the perfect ride. I also love playing guitar and bird watching. 

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

If you want to be a teacher ask yourself, "how can I inspire others?" The best leaders make the best teachers. You have to be willing to work hard. Importantly, you must be someone that can connect with all people. Teaching is a very personal occupation and it only works if you've got your heart in it!

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

During my graduate work at the University of California Santa Barbara, one of my mentor teachers encouraged me to apply. This teacher is known for traveling the world as a science teacher. She believes that a good science teacher is one that is involved in doing science. 


Tommy participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: