Mark Murray Brown sees himself as a bit of a pioneer among his peers from St Paul’s. Mark elected to study at Bates College in Maine, USA, a small liberal arts college that boasts a strong undergraduate research component.
Leaving behind London and swapping venues for a small coastal town in New England may seem like a big leap, but Murray-Brown didn’t see it that way. “Going to the US was never daunting to me,” he explains. “It was crazy attractive!”
Murray-Brown got his start in biology at St Paul’s but soon realised he didn’t want to become a doctor like many of his fellow students. Partly inspired by Jacques Cousteau, partly by his own love of the outdoors, Murray-Brown eventually came around to oceanography.
Bates College offered a plethora of opportunities for Murray-Brown to get involved in some real hands-on experience in the field. One of his classes involved a six-week expedition diving among coral reefs in the Caribbean. Another oceanography course took place abroad on the Cuban coastline. Murray-Brown ultimately received a bachelor’s degree in Biology, but the ocean science courses he took inspired him to take a master’s course in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island a few years later.
As much as Murray-Brown enjoyed studying oceanography, he didn’t land on his current career path until he picked up his second masters’ degree in political science, again from the University of Rhode Island. It was then that “things finally clicked.” It was here at the “intersection of science, law, and politics” that Murray-Brown found his calling and started working for the public sector in the areas of oceanography.
His first job was working in Washington, DC for the National Marine Sanctuary Program, where he designed and maintained marine parks and sanctuaries in California. From there he moved on to work for NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in the Fisheries Department, acting as the US regulator for Atlantic Bluefin tuna fisheries by setting quotas, bag limits, and dealing with fishermen and environmental organisations.
The NOAA position took Mark to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he currently lives with his wife and children. He has since moved roles at NOAA to an Endangered Species Coordinator, protecting turtles, whales, and other endangered marine species from Maine to Virginia.
Murray-Brown credits his time at St Paul’s for putting him on the track to his success today. “Either through reputation or just being damn good at what it does, SPS gives you a sense of confidence, background, and training,” he explains. “With that comes great responsibility – take ownership of why that’s important!”
His advice for any young Paulines unsure of where the next step leads? “Explore, make mistakes, and be open to what your own compass is trying to tell you,” he says. “Your compass will bounce around and oscillate, so just go with it.”