Eugene Vivino ’16 holds a Lehigh sign at the Arctic

Eugene Vivino ’16 shows his Lehigh pride on a research cruise from Kodiak, Alaska, to Tromsø, Norway. Photos: Contributed

A Trip to the Arctic

Eugene Vivino '16 helps manage the cyber infrastructure for research vessels around the world.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

A funny thing happened to Eugene Vivino ’16 on the day his landlord’s birds flew away.

A woman who was helping to locate them was wearing a jacket with a logo that caught Vivino’s attention: Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And, she told him, Scripps, a center for ocean and Earth science research in La Jolla, California, was hiring.

Then a systems analyst at Northrop Grumman working to support Department of Defense research labs, and with a degree in Earth and environmental sciences from Lehigh, Vivino decided to send in a resume. He secured a job with Scripps as a systems analyst, providing comprehensive IT services to research ships around the clock as part of the Ship Cyber Infrastructure Services (ShipCIS) team to ensure they are working at their best and protected from digital threats.

The job has taken him to remote spots around the world, including the volcanic island of Mauritius, destinations in Europe, the sea off the coast of California, and far above the Arctic Circle aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy to collect data and investigate the condition of the Arctic—a mission, Vivino said, that will help shape the world’s understanding of the Arctic at a critical point in history.

Also a member of the Ship-based Technical Support in the Arctic (STARC) team, Vivino said he helped conduct sample collection and provide technical support for many data acquisition systems that enabled the science to happen. On board the icebreaking vessel were also researchers from the National Science Foundation and International Arctic Research Center as a part of the NABOS 2023 Cruise that left from Kodiak, Alaska, sailed through the Arctic, and arrived in Tromsø, Norway, over the span of 38 days.

“It felt like I was getting to serve my country and felt like I was getting to do good in the world,” said Vivino, who called the month-long expedition “the trip of a lifetime.”

Collecting Valuable Data

Vivino and the team worked continuously to collect valuable data, including water column samples, temperature and salinity readings, compositional analyses, current measurements, seafloor mappings and more. This work is significant, Vivino said, because it provides some of the only first-hand measurements of the Arctic's climatic transformation, guiding an understanding of global environmental changes.

It was the stark beauty of the Arctic that stood out to him, however. He recalled the blue of the ice under the surface of the water and the many types of wildlife encountered, including polar bears and their cubs, birds, whales, fish, seals and arctic foxes. He said the colors were ethereal and pastel-like, and he got a chance to see the northern lights. Due to the mission’s extremely high latitude, the sun almost never set for much of the cruise.

“The most interesting thing to me was being in a place where it was ice as far as you could see,” Vivino said. “It looked like you were on a different planet. … It struck me somewhere deep down because of how beautiful it was.”

In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the Scripps team manages the cyber infrastructure for ships in its fleet, including the Roger Revelle, Sally Ride and Robert Gordon Sproul—three of the ships in the 17-vessel U.S. Academic Research Fleet.

“Our team does remote support as well as on-site support to make sure that our ships have the best digital foundation to support science that we can give them,” he said.

A major project was adding Starlink and 5G internet to ships to improve their connectivity while at sea and in ports around the world. “Internet connectivity on the ships has gotten so good that I was able to give an hour-long technical presentation from ship-to-shore via satellite, and many could have had no idea where I was until I showed them the ice outside,” he said.

The Path to Lehigh

Vivino grew up in the San Diego area, but with both his father (Gene Vivino ’80) and uncle (Frank Vivino ’83) having graduated from Lehigh, he was drawn to the university and its offerings. He was still in high school when he spent a month one summer at the Iacocca Global Entrepreneurship program at Lehigh. Though he majored in Earth and environmental science, he also minored in theatre.

“It was a very wide liberal arts education,” he said. “It prepared me for a lot of different things and allowed me the opportunity to explore many interesting paths.”

A Remote Sensing class taught by Joan Ramage, associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences, was among his favorite classes, he said, and he was able to use spectral data from satellites to determine such things as what kinds of trees are in a forest. He also studied acting with Kashi Johnson, chair of the Department of Theatre, and participated in a wide range of technical theatre opportunities including classes in sound, lighting, performance venue design, and working as a member of the Zoellner technical Services team.

His job now, he said, allows him to blend his interests and appreciation of the natural world with his interest in high-end technology.

“I'm truly grateful that I get to travel the world like this with such an incredible group of people,” Vivino said, “and to use my gifts in working with people, science and technology to be able to contribute to a better understanding of the world we share.”

Read more stories on the Lehigh News Center.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

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