Maggie Loftus

As an undergraduate in Ocean Engineering at MIT, Maggie Loftus worked with flapping foils that could improve propulsion on AUVs. From there, she got involved with MIT Sea Grant's hatchery and other educational initiatives, and she's continued in that capacity since graduating in May 2005. The difference between her undergraduate days and current work schedule? "Getting used to more regular work hours is a little adjustment after the student life," she says, but quickly adds: "How can I complain? They just sent me to Hawaii!" The Hawaii trip was part of Loftus' work with SeaPerch, MITSG's program that teaches teachers—and by extension, students—how to build remotely operated underwater vehicles.

Having grown up in New Jersey and Cape Cod, Loftus says she knew that she wanted to study naval architecture and ocean engineering at MIT. "I liked that, but halfway though I discovered that I liked teaching so much, and I'm really happy that I get to do both together."

With a teaching certificate for middle and high school math, Loftus has been integral to one of MITSG's newer education activities—an eelgrass curriculum she developed and is now seeing implemented in Massachusetts public schools. In that project, students are learning about restoring, conserving, and managing fragile marine ecosystems by growing eelgrass in recirculating aquaculture systems. Much of Loftus' focus has been with teachers, but she notes that the project provides kids with an exciting, hands-on opportunity to look at problems with the ecosystem and figure out how to solve them. "The students keep having ideas about how to improve everything. I like that I'm involved in education, have contact with students, and that I get to inject technology into high school and middle-aged school classes."

Aside from working, Loftus likes to sew, crochet, sail, and go hiking. And looking down the road, she says, "In five or ten years I'll probably be a classroom {math] teacher." Which makes what she's doing now all the more critical. While alternative, interdisciplinary, hands-on teaching is more common in science classes, "it's really important to math teachers because it's hard to make math interesting," she states. "And," she adds, "I'm an engineer. I want to be doing things."

- Andrea Cohen, WHOI Sea Grant