A professor’s journey from the seas to Queens College

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Dr. Gregory O’Mullan is no ordinary professor. He is a marine biologist who travelled to places like Antarctica for research.

O’Mullan, professor at the Science and Environment Studies department, attended Rutgers University for his undergraduate studies. Initially, he decided to major in pharmacy but after taking a course titled “Exploration of the Oceans and Environmental Intro,” he changed his major to environmental science with a focus on marine biology.

The marine biologist credited networking to discovering his niche in the field as an undergraduate.

One of his professors offered a spot on the Atlantis ship to the student who scored the highest in the class to join him in research at the Atlantic Ocean. O’Mullan’s enthusiasm and persistence got him a seat on the ship.

“[It was] a golden ticket,” O’Mullan said.

During the six months on the Atlantis, he joined teams of divers that submerged in a submarine to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on multiple occasions. The experience gave him new insights in what he did.

“You gain such a new perspective out there, you appreciate land more and it makes you feel so tiny,” O’Mullan said.

After spending summers working at a shellfish farm to gain experience, he completed his master’s degree and focused on his new career.

“First, it was ‘how do I get that experience?’ By the end of my Master’s, it was ‘how do I do this as a living?’” O’Mullan said.

His research took him to places like Antarctica where he was dropped off by a jet on sea ice. He spent three months building shelters and practicing survival training.

“It was like putting ourselves in the shoes of early explorers, in being self-reliant.” O’Mullan said. “We had a survival kit and some training. That’s it. There was no 7-Eleven on the corner or a supply store we could run to.”

He felt lucky to obtain such experiences and grateful for opportunities that came his way. However, he said there is still a lot more to explore and learn.

“This is an unlimited field. It’s engaging and it’s definitely exciting,” O’Mullan said.



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