Case study

Oceanographer — Max Campbell

Max works for a ground-breaking company that uses solar heat energy stored in the ocean to produce clean, renewable energy. Discover his top tips for getting a career in oceanography

How did you get your job?

I studied for a BSc Oceanography at the University of Southampton. Both during and after my degree, I spent time working as an intern for Mojo Maritime and developed an understanding of the marine renewables industry. I also made some very valuable contacts.

Sailing has always been a passion of mine, and after graduating I sailed my 22' yacht 'Flying Cloud' to the Caribbean. While in the Caribbean, I was contacted by Dan Grech, founder and director of Global OTEC Resources. Working to reduce tropical islands' reliance on fossil fuels, his idea was to develop a floating Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), which would provide clean, renewable energy to isolated resorts like those in the Maldives.

He had secured a grant to develop the concept from Marine I, an ERDF fund which aims to develop marine technology in Cornwall. He had already decided to open an office in Cornwall, and employing a local graduate like myself strengthened the application.

What's a typical working day like?

As an oceanographer, my role includes technical analyses of different parts of the OTEC device. Most of my work has been analysis on the mooring and riser system. I have also conducted lots of research into the environmental properties of the Maldives and analysis of the parameters that make the Maldives such a great location for OTEC.

I have also written specifications for several parts of the OTEC device and engaged several universities in mutually beneficial research projects.   

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I very much enjoy being at the leading edge of such an innovative industry. There's no doubt that it's time to shift our focus from fossil fuels, and the introduction of OTEC plants will have a significant positive impact. It's exciting to be driving the change, especially within a field that I'm so passionate about.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge is securing funding. As the project is a start-up, it's vital to find the right private investor to keep the project rolling.

In what way is your degree relevant?

The temperature structure of the ocean, as well as bathymetry, are aspects of oceanography that I studied in a lot of detail at university. These are both essential when searching for potential OTEC sites, as well as for estimating the efficiency and yield of a device.     

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have taken on a lot more responsibility over time. I have enjoyed being part of a small start-up, and I admire Dan for investing everything in a cause he's so passionate about.

My ambition is to one day start my own company in the marine renewables space and work towards driving the change towards a greener future.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • I would never have found my way into this position if I hadn't first completed an internship. The experience and contacts you gain make the job-hunting experience much easier.
  • Having a first-class degree on my CV is a massive asset. Employers can tell that you have focus and a work ethic, and I think that makes you stand out from others.
  • Follow what you're passionate about even if it's not highly paid to start with. I have always been passionate about the ocean, sustainability and problem solving, and have pursued jobs that involve the three. It took a bit longer to get established, but the money eventually came.

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