March 2024 OES Beacon

New YP-BOOST Laureates 2024-2025

Karen Renninger-Rojas & Gaultier Real, New YP-BOOST Laureates, Roberto Petroccia, OES Liaison for the YP-BOOST Program

Introduction by Roberto Petroccia, OES Liaison for the YP-BOOST Program

I am very happy and honored to introduce Karen and Gaultier, the two new IEEE OES Young Professional (YP) BOOST Program laureates for 2024-2025. They will join the OES YP-BOOST team and participate in the leadership of the society by attending the meetings, by being involved in the diverse committees, and by helping with different aspects of the OCEANS conferences. The OES YP-BOOST program aims at helping selected YPs in their career development and engagement with the leadership of the OES society and maritime scientific and technological community at large.  We are very happy to have Karen and Gaultier on-board and, as you can read in what follows, they have strong ties with OES and can significantly contribute to current and novel initiatives.  If you see them around in future OES events, please engage and take the chance to discuss and propose ideas. Two new YP-BOOST candidates will be selected at the end of 2024 to serve in 2025-2026 and the application process will open later in 2024.

I would like to invite all of you to visit the OES YP webpage (, learn more about this program and apply to engage more within the OES society and give a boost to your career development and networking.

New YP-BOOST Laureates 2024-2025

Figure 1 Karen-Renninger in a research cruise with NANOOS and WOAC 2023.

Karen Renninger-Rojas

Hey there! Who would’ve thought a girl who once dreamed of flying high in the sky would find her true calling in the embrace of the ocean? Yet, here I am, a testament to life’s unpredictability and beauty.

My journey began in the vibrant coastal town of Salinas, Ecuador, where the ocean was more than just a backdrop; it was a central character in my life’s story. My family’s livelihood depended on the marine bounty, tying me to the sea in ways I only began to understand as I grew older. Seeing the ocean’s majesty every day and understanding its immense importance on our planet motivated me to develop a profound love and respect for it.

At 16, fresh out of high school and brimming with ambition, I found myself at a crossroads. Eager to take to the skies as a pilot, I was too young to join the Ecuadorian Air Force. So I decided to bide my time in college, choosing a field in engineering as a placeholder for my dreams of flight. Little did I know, this decision would steer my life in a completely new direction.

During those formative years in college, I discovered a world as captivating as the skies I had longed to explore. Oceanography revealed itself to me like a map brimming with endless wonders. I was astounded by everything I learned—the dynamics of waves, intricate chemical processes, the mysteries of surf zones, and the diverse marine life. Each discovery answered the myriad ‘whys’ that had filled my life. Why is the ocean blue? What causes the foam at the breaking of waves? Why does a jellyfish sting feel the way it does? Turning back from this newfound love was simply out of the question.

Figure 2 Presenters of RIO ACOUSTIC Symposium 2017.

This deep connection I have with the ocean inspired me to dedicate my life to protecting, preserving, and exploring it. The ocean is much more than a job for me; it is my passion, my peace, and my happy place. This is why I decided to continue the oceanographic engineering degree at the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral – ESPOL, Ecuador. My goal was clear: to delve deeper into the ocean’s mysteries and create an environmentally friendly path for human-ocean interaction to coexist harmoniously.

My academic and professional journey has been a thrilling adventure. Starting in 2016, I joined the Department of Maritime Engineering and Marine Sciences as a research assistant. I was part of the Acoustic System for Aquatic Data Collection project, where I developed and used innovative technologies. As a result of this project, I presented my first publication in 2017 at the IEEE/OES Acoustics in Underwater Geosciences Symposium (RIO Acoustics) in Rio de Janeiro marking my entry into the world of scientific contribution and discovery.

Currently, I am deepening my knowledge at Louisiana State University, pursuing a master’s degree in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. Here, I am part of the SMART Subsea Cables project, an ambitious initiative aimed at monitoring essential ocean variables to safeguard our planet against natural disasters.

Figure 3 OES Committee and ESPOL authorities in the Ocean Technology Congress 2018. Jean-Pierre Hermand is the third person from right to left.

My involvement with IEEE/OES has been nothing short of transformative. It was after my presentation at RIO Acoustics that I first learned about the IEEE/OES mission, which deeply resonated with me, leading me to establish the first IEEE/OES Student Chapter in Ecuador. A pivotal figure in this journey was Jean-Pierre Hermand (may he rest in peace). He was more than just a mentor; he was a source of inspiration, guiding the creation of our chapter and leading initiatives like the Ocean Technology Congress and a research expedition along the Ecuadorian coast. He taught me that every idea and every action is significantly important in moving closer to creating the ocean environment that our marine ecosystem and humanity deserve.

Since joining IEEE/OES my journey has been marked by a commitment to fostering inclusive academic environments and empowering the next generation of ocean professionals.

Looking back on the path I’ve traveled, from aspiring pilot to devoted oceanographer, I am filled with gratitude for the unexpected turns that have led me here. The ocean, once a distant dream, is now my life’s work, my passion, and my endless source of inspiration.

Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you. In securing a place in the IEEE/OES Young Professionals “BOOST” Program, I eagerly anticipate contributing meaningfully to the community, deepening our understanding of the oceans, and making a lasting impact on marine conservation.

Figure 4 Coming back –proudly- from yet another experiment at sea.

Gaultier Real

For as long as I can remember, I was always attracted by the sea. As unoriginal as it may seem, this statement cannot be more adapted to my case. I specifically mention the sea and not the ocean, since I was brought up on the Mediterranean coast in the south east of France.

Most of my summers were spent on the beach, most of my adventures were experienced with a sea view, preferably with a sunset on the sea horizon.

I made a point never to live far away from the shore. Even though it was more a fun fact than a true expression of my free will, I spent my life living near the coast. In the south of France, in south Florida, or now on the Ligurian coast in Italy. In the end, my extreme sense of commitment solidified my strong bond with this environment.

Was that enough to justify a career choice? Probably not. There are at least two other factors that I want to share with this small window of expression.

The first one is music. One of the other passions of mine I share with the ocean is the capability to connect rational fields such as physics, and science overall, with poetry and the possibility to generate feelings beyond deterministic expectations. A natural link between these two focal points was therefore … underwater acoustics!

Figure 5 Last minute adjustments on the deck of an oceanographic ship.

I started my journey towards this field when embarking for a Master’s of Science program at Florida Atlantic University (FAU, USA). The campus of Dania Beach being so close to the shore (again, see the pattern here), I was not only introduced to the theoretical aspects of ocean engineering, but also to its expression through field experiments. From this point on, being able to make the most out of sensing actual things happening in the water became a priority. My PhD work, conducted at the Laboratory of Mechanics and Acoustics in Marseille (France), still carried a fair load of experimental work. In water tanks this time, with the challenge of emulating some phenomena observed in the “real” ocean.

This “real” ocean really turned into a playground further down the road, while I was working as an underwater acoustic scientist for the French Ministry of Defense (DGA Naval Systems, Toulon, France). During my seven years stay, I accumulated multiple months on various ships (military, civilian, scientific), in various environments (Med, North Atlantic, Arctic), above and even below the sea surface.

Maybe now is a good time to introduce the second factor I wanted to mention, besides music. That factor is mentorship. No one in my family of direct surroundings had any connection to science. Whether fate or karma were involved is up to each and everyone’s belief, but one thing I can say is that I was lucky. Lucky that some inspiring people were put on my path. I will not state any names, in order not to embarrass them, but should they read these lines, they will recognize themselves. I was confronted with very different ways of leading people: pushing you towards your best self, helping you make progress, making sure you always go towards the relevant question, trusting your decisions, the list goes on and on.

Figure 6 Judges of the 2019 MTS/IEEE OCEANS Student Poster Competition (I am the first sited on the left).

This also inspired me to try to share the knowledge I was able to gain over the years. I started giving lectures at the University of Toulon, mentoring some students and now leading projects for a NATO research center (CMRE, Italy).

All of this is, of course, not completely uncorrelated with the influence of IEEE OES, to say the least. A particularly important event in my background is my participation as a member of the local organization committee in MTS/IEEE OCEANS in Marseille in June 2019. Not only was that an opportunity to take a look at the backstage of such a big event for our community, it was also a formative experience to organize the student poster competition and coordinate the evaluation of the judges.

Figure 6 Judges of the 2019 MTS/IEEE OCEANS Student Poster Competition (I am the first sited on the left).

I am very proud to have been selected as one of the new YP-BOOST laureates for IEEE OES. I will take this opportunity to talk about my passions, and, at my level, try to provide some guidance and help to younger folks who may be interested in following these steps.

After all, knowledge, much like happiness, is only good when shared.