On the eve of its Scholars Day celebration, Monmouth College will host a guest speaker who explores places in the ocean few people have ever seen.
Deep-sea submersible pilot Erika Bergman will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, April 24, in the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. The College’s biology and chemistry departments are sponsoring the pre-Scholars Day talk, which is free and open to the public.
Monmouth’s Scholars Day activities on April 25 include the annual Honors Convocation at 10 a.m. in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium, as well as poster presentations beginning at 2 p.m. on the main concourse of the Huff Athletic Center.
Named a National Geographic Young Explorer in 2013, Bergman is also a virtual reality engineer. Weaving together her passions for submersible engineering, rich media storytelling and outreach, she founded Global Engineering & Exploration Counselors, providing a network of advanced engineering camps to girls around the world.
Bergman earned a degree in chemical oceanography at the University of Washington while working as a marine diesel engineer and steam ship engineer. Now a private submersible pilot and a producer for National Geographic, her award 10 years ago from the organization was for her “Classrooms Under the Sea” expedition, which featured live streaming video from submersibles.
In her ‘happy place’
Her current work with submarines combines three of the things she loves the most: the ocean, mechanics and community outreach.
“I’m in my happy place right now because I’m right at this junction where I’m doing really technical work – very hands-on, submarine technician work where I’m building and fabricating stuff – and combining that with education outreach and this whole storytelling side of things,” she said.
Despite what may seem like a clear path, Bergman stumbled on her interest in submarines by “being in the right place at the right time” at the University of Washington. She was lucky enough to be in the lab when the owners of the submarine Antipodes came through for a show-and-tell.
Despite being a seasoned diver and submarine pilot, Bergman said exploring what lies below the ocean’s surface will never get old.
“Every single dive – it doesn’t matter if you’ve been to the spot 100 times – is completely different,” she said. “There are so many things that we don’t know about the ocean. Every single time you dive, you see something new and exciting.”
One of her messages to Monmouth students will be a lesson that’s been reinforced to her many times over.
“Be open to learning new things,” she said. “You don’t have to be an expert in any one of them. Just be willing to learn something new and get very hands on. … Don’t be afraid to take something apart, see how it works, and try and put it back together.”