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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonOur alumni

Emmy McGarry MSc Oceanography, 2019

Emmy McGarry's Photo

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in 2009 and then spent the next 10 years working as a research technician and project manager. However, after sailing from San Francisco to New York I realised that I wanted to find a career that enabled me to do science at sea and after some research I found that oceanographers did exactly that.

Both the knowledge gained on the course and the links that Southampton University have with the National Oceanography Centre were invaluable in gaining me my current role.

As I had no previous knowledge of Oceanography I chose the MSc Oceanography as it gave an introduction to all the oceanography disciplines. I chose Southampton as it is based at the National Oceanography Centre which manages two out of the three UK NERC research vessels so I felt that it would give me the best chance of actually getting on a ship.

The course was really enjoyable, there was quite a steep learning curve and not a lot of time off but by the end of it I felt that I had a solid knowledge of general oceanography, experience of many relevant software programmes and some in depth knowledge of a few topics that I’d chosen. It was really useful having the mix of university and NOC scientists as it meant that whatever topic you were interested in there were sure to be several people who would be happy to talk to you about it.

Halfway through the course one of the ships was docked outside the canteen at NOC which got me thinking if it was possible to get on it. I spoke to one of my lecturers who put me in touch with the principal scientist of the cruise who luckily had some space on her upcoming research expedition. I spent 4 weeks at sea analysing oxygen and nutrients in the seawater sampled. I’d spent a lot of time working in labs before, but this was the first time I had a view of dolphins out the window! It was a brilliant trip and at the end of it I was offered a 3 month contract with the National Oceanography Centre after my Masters ended to continue working as a research technician.

I stayed working there for a year in which time I went on 2 more research expeditions, one to the Southern Ocean and the other from Tenerife to the Bahamas. During these cruises I got to know the different departments that worked on the ship and realised that I would get even more time at sea working as an engineering technician. This led to my current role which involves calibrating, maintaining and troubleshooting any issues that arise with the scientific ship equipment which range from echo sounders and gravity meters to internet provision. It’s a really interesting role but quite niche which I never would have heard of if I hadn’t spent some time on the ships first.

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