Dr. Charles Mazel


What sparked your initial interest in ocean sciences?

I have been drawn to the water for as long as I can remember. As a kid I was always at the lake near my house, fishing or adjusting the water flow in the stream that fed the lake. I made my first SCUBA dive at 12 and took it up in earnest while I was in college. All of my jobs since college have been ocean-related, although not always in the sciences.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My parents, though not in the sciences, provided strong role models for the value of working hard and doing what is interesting to you. I was also fortunate to meet and work with Dr. Harold Edgerton at MIT, the developer of electronic flash and a pioneer in underwater photography and sonar. There are others, like Dr. Les Kaufman, former Director of Research at the New England Aquarium, who got very excited about what I was finding with fluorescence and encouraged me to pursue it in graduate school. And I couldn't have pursued options like quitting a perfectly good job and going back to graduate school just when our first child was due to arrive without the support and encouragement of my wife.

Looking back, was there anything you would have done differently in your education or career journey?

I didn't even begin to go in a research direction until I went back to graduate school for my Ph.D. at age 38, after having worked in more technical sides of the marine industry for more than 12 years. I received my doctorate at age 42, and my research interests did not start to really turn into a career until I was 45! I suppose in hindsight I might have started earlier in this direction, but second-guessing is easy, and I enjoyed doing the different things that I did, traveled a lot, and accumulated a wide variety of experiences. Much of my earlier work might seem unrelated to the things I am doing now, but it all contributed to giving me the skills and thought processes that I bring to the research.

What obstacles did you encounter along the way?

I can't say there were any major obstacles, but there were (and continue to be) challenges finding research funding on an ongoing basis. Switching career paths relatively late (age 38) presented the challenge of going back to school after a long time off.

What are your hobbies?

I recently took up mountain biking and enjoy the exercise and getting off the beaten track. I occasionally SCUBA dive just for fun. But outside of my research work time I spend a lot of time on NightSea, which in many ways is more of a hobby than a business. With NightSea I play around with new approaches to lights and photography techniques for fluorescence.

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