Julia Arthur: Deep Sea Researcher and High School Student

Updated bio
  • Name: Julia Arthur

  • Education: Graduating High School in Spring of 2013
  • Target Audience: Middle School

Julia Arthur, a high school senior, had an amazing opportunity to plunge into ocean exploration aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus last summer and hasn't come up for air yet. Read on to learn why Julia's work last summer is making such a splash!

What is your ocean research experience? 

This past summer (July and August 2012) I spent 5 weeks at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School ofimage Oceanography working on a shore-based ocean research project. Part of the overall shore-based project included 10 days aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus off the coast of Turkey exploring and interpreting data we collected on an underwater mountain range in the Mediterranean Sea.

What led you to this this research project?

Dr. Robert Ballard, captain of the (E/V) Nautilus, gave a presentation at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Virginia (VA). While he was in VA, the Vice President and Director of Programs from his company, Ocean Exploration Trust, stopped by my school to observe our labs and our research. They chose to visit our school because we focus largely on science and technology and we do a lot of really interesting research in our labs. They were impressed with the research we were doing, and sent an email to my research lab director inviting her to encourage students to apply for this summer research project aboard the (E/V) Nautilus. I applied and got the internship and the rest is history.

Explain what the research process was like for you this summer. What was your biggest challenge?

Dr. Ballard's team gave us (interns) a project to do, which basically involved reviewing the data collected by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called Hercules. They already had a specific scientific method they were using on the expedition, so it was really just a case of us learning their method and applying it to our assigned project. Hercules collects a constant stream of data every day and from every dive and the way the data streams appear is just numbers and letters on a page, which is really frustrating to look at. So, our project was to take the sheets of numbers and letters collected and turn it into visual representations of data. We made charts and graphs and 3-D maps that were easy to interpret and useful.

What do you think it means to be an innovator?

I think it means being brave and putting yourself out there. Identifying a need in the world and trying something new to solve the problem is innovative.

Have you always liked science, engineering and/or math? If so, what subject do you enjoy most and why? If not, what changed your mind?

imageI've always really liked math and English. With math, there is always a right or wrong answer and I like that, but I'm also a very auditory person. I love things that sound good like music and books. I guess I like both math and English equally, but for very different reasons.

Tell me about yourself? What do you like to do outside the classroom or research?

I definitely spend a lot of time doing homework, but I love the water too. I row on the crew team and hope to continue rowing when I go to college. Fingers crossed!

Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to pursue STEM? Tell us about it. 

I've always enjoyed math - if you sit down and do a problem correctly, you will always get the right answer. But, I would say my love for STEM really happened this summer aboard the (E/V) Nautilus. All of my teachers and counselors in school have always told me to pursue a field in STEM, but no one ever explained why, how or which field to pursue. This summer was great because it was an opportunity to really experience what my life would be like if I choose a career in oceanography. A post-doctoral fellow who often helped our team this summer really became a role-model for me and helped me learn why deep sea research is important and what steps to take if I want to continue down this path. Now that I understand how to make a career out of ocean exploration, I'm looking into undergraduate geology programs and then probably onto graduate oceanography programs.

Which courses would you recommend to incoming high school students?

Taking a broad spectrum of electives is really helpful. The core math and science classes are important, but electives will introduce you to a lot of different fields and may help you figure out what you like or don't like. Not a lot of schools offer this, but I had the opportunity to take marine biology and it really reinforced how much I like the water.

Do you have any suggestions for how middle school kids can gain real-world experience in your field or start their journey to become an innovator?

The great thing about middle school is that there are a lot of opportunities to explore different fields. In terms of oceanography experience, check out opportunities through NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Also, if you live close to the water - spend some time exploring it.

What excites you/intimidates you about the future?

Everything! I'm currently in the middle of applying to colleges. My top places for schools right now are Brown andimage the Naval Academy, which are both really impressive schools. In June of 2013 I graduate from high school and my whole world will change. And, when I'm done with college I have to find a job and make a place for myself - it's all so vastly open right now. It excites me and frightens me all at the same time.

What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want do you want your legacy to be?

I want to be remembered as passionate in every sense of the term and every facet of my life. I want to be passionate about work and passionate about my relationships with people. There is a quote from Andy Warhol that says "you need to let the little things in life that would ordinarily bore you suddenly fascinate you." That's the philosophy I try to live by.

Nautilus Expedition Facts to Get Your Feet Wet...

  • Nautilus is a 211-foot research vessel equipped with state-of-the-art exploration and telepresence technology.
  • The primary remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on board, Hercules and Argus, were used to view the seafloor with video, take environmental measurements and collect geological and biological samples. 
  • Dr. Robert Ballard, the captain of E/V Nautilus, is best known for his legendary discovery of the Titanic, and other underwater explorations of the Bismarck, Lusitania, and Britannic.

(adapted from nautiluslive.org)