Alumni Spotlight Q & A:
Where are you from, Tomer?
I was born in Israel and have grown up in the US. Nowadays I hail mostly from Costa Rica, or from my van during US road trips or from work destinations and ships.
What was your major at UNH and when did you graduate?
In 2014 I graduated from the GEBCO program in Ocean Mapping with a post-graduate certificate. It is a fellowship program sponsored by the Nippon Foundation and it hosts 6 international students every year since 2004.
Why did you choose UNH?
The GEBCO program is unique and considered the top in the field of ocean mapping. I was fortunate to have been admitted and to receive the full scholarship. No other program would have provided an experience like this one.
What were your favorite courses? Which professors had the greatest impact on you?
The program was loaded with fascinating courses but I think my favorite one was Geological Oceanography, or Marine Geology as we would call it, taught by Professors Larry Mayer and Jim Gardner, both world-renowned researchers and explorers on top of being excellent teachers, mentors and just really great people to learn from. They covered so much ground during that class that it really opened our eyes and reshaped our understanding of the processes that shape the ocean floor and how earth systems work on a geological time scale and how we as humans have developed methods to understand those things.
What was student life like? What did you think of the campus and extracurricular activities?
The program was pretty intensive so during the week there was a lot of work to complete. I did make an effort to stay up later and work harder during on weeknights so I could escape campus during the weekends and explore New England. I think I signed up for all the Outdoor Activities the REC center had to offer. I lived in the grad dorms that year and took every possible opportunity to see new places and be active.
What was the biggest transitional issue you faced when you started at UNH?
Getting used to the American academic system and standards wasn’t easy but the professionalism and high standards of service at UNH made everything a lot easier. Working through some of the bureaucracy was frustrating at times. I’m lucky to have a good level of English but some of my classmates were struggling with a lot of administrative stuff due to language barriers. We helped each other out a lot and became really close friends. We’re almost a decade later now and still stay in touch regularly.
How is UNH addressing the social cause you are most passionate about?
UNH has some of the most progressive views on social issues that are challenging the US society right now. It was always encouraging to see the capacity shared by the staff and students to handle these topics and how much effort everyone was putting into creating more awareness and making a change. I think the greatest challenge is the cost of tuition and the sheer amount of money in school loans and debt that haunts these students sometimes for 20 years or more after graduation. There’s still a lot of work needed on that front.
What is your current position? Why is your work important?
Nowadays I am the head of mapping for SubMerge, a small and cool company in the field of underwater technology and exploration, specializing in superyacht and submersible expeditions in remote locations. I’m also a director for a non-profit I helped start a couple years ago, called Map the Gaps. We create collaborative projects in the field of ocean mapping to democratize how the ocean floor is mapped and who has access to that precious knowledge and technology. We empower indigenous communities and local scientists everywhere we work, to be better positioned to understand and protect their home environment, and our planet collectively.
There is so much work to do in order for everyone, and policy makers especially, to be able to experience and understand the deep ocean and how critical it is to preserve it for the health of our ecosystems and communities.
What are your future career plans?
I plan to keep exploring the ocean until I’m unable to do it, and to create more frameworks that will support that mission. There is so much work to do in order for everyone, and policy makers especially, to be able to experience and understand the deep ocean and how critical it is to preserve it for the health of our ecosystems and communities.
How did UNH contribute to your career and where you are now? Looking back on your time spent as a UNH grad student, what are some of your best memories?
My time at UNH both as a grad student and as an employee has been instrumental in developing my professional skills and network. I’m not sure I would have gotten to this point if I had taken another academic path. Looking back brings up some great memories with great people. We worked hard together as a team and also made huge personal progress in our unique ways and contexts. It also makes me proud of the hard work and the people I get to call coworkers. There were some unique moments I was fortunate to be present at, as a professional.
Any advice for undergrads/grad students who are conducting research?
Don’t doubt yourself. Keep working hard and putting yourself out there. Communicate with your teachers and advisors and fellow students. The doors will eventually open and you will find that you know what to do.
What can be improved so that other students conducting research have an improved experience?
As an academic institution I would have cultivated more opportunities for grad students to collaborate with one another. The classic academic path breeds independent researchers, but ultimately it’s teamwork that brings those discoveries and successes after long and tedious work, and the skills that one develops while working with others are necessary to advance and be prolific.
What makes you proud to be affiliated with UNH?
My affiliation with UNH has several facets I'm proud of, first of all the GEBCO program at UNH, CCOM, is regarded as one of the best training programs available and that has created some unique opportunities for me to work and grow and explore. A few years later I came back to UNH and joined as a CCOM staff member for three years and that period has also raised my career to a higher level with a great skill set and a worldwide professional network that spans multiple sectors. And finally, UNH itself as an excellent academic institution, and makes me proud to be a wildcat!
What impact do you hope your work has on future generations?
I hope to keep being part of the movement that is raising awareness and pushing hard towards protecting our oceans from threats like deep sea mining, overfishing and plastic pollution. There’s tremendous momentum in that direction right now coming from the UN and from a plethora of research, media and conservation organizations. Both of my present endeavors, SubMerge and Map the Gaps, are actively involved in those efforts by engaging people in certain ways and creating experiences no one else is. I know I’ve already inspired some people and have already made a small change. If each of us does a little, it adds up to be a lot.
Are you on social media?
Yes, you can find me on Instagram.
Are you or is someone you know an alum who conducted research with us? Want to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Spotlight? We'd love to connect! Please email Rebecca.Irelan@unh.edu with details.