My Life at CSUMB: Diving into opportunity

Annie Hansen, My Life at CSUMB

CSUMB marine science major Annie Hansen has found her calling under the sea. | Photo by Mark Muckenfuss

June 10, 2024

By Mark Muckenfuss 

Annie Hansen says she never saw herself as a diver. 

“It really scared me at first,” she said. 

But as a marine science major at Cal State Monterey Bay, dropping beneath the waves of one of the world’s most dynamic underwater environments has become second nature to her. It has also provided great insight into her university courses and the research she is engaged in.

“It’s given me a much better idea of how the ecosystems interact,” Hansen said. “It’s way more complicated than you think.”

A Sacramento native, Hansen is preparing to enter her fourth year of study at CSUMB. She has already amassed an impressive resume of research experience that includes studying the decline in seagrass, arctic-water surface mixing as it relates to climate change, and developing a device for measuring light penetration underwater.

Recently, Hansen was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national award targeted at college sophomores and juniors in STEM fields.

She said she feels fortunate to be at CSUMB, where research is a regular part of the curriculum. 

“It’s kind of unheard of at a lot of other schools,” she said. 

Hansen said she also feels lucky to have found what has turned out to be a good fit for her. 

“I didn’t have much of a sense of direction coming out of high school,” she said. 

Although she’d done well her senior year, she had struggled with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder throughout her school career and hadn’t focused on any course of action after graduation. She’d been inspired by a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium during grade school. But while marine science interested her, she was equally drawn to art. In the end, the ocean won.

“I like being so close to the ocean,” she said. “To learn about it in my classes and then go to the beach and see it in person has been a really cool experience.”

She also likes being at a smaller university.

“I had heard about other students going to the UCs and having trouble with the size of the classes,” she said. “Being able to connect with my professors was a big selling point for me. Most of them know my name and will talk after class. I get to know about their career paths and their experiences. It really connects me to the course.”

She’s found a strong connection with her classmates as well.

“I’ve met a lot of students who have similar interests to me, a lot of budding researchers,” she said. “It gives me a good community to lean on.”

After graduating from CSUMB, Hansen plans to pursue a master’s degree and PhD. She hopes to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to study either ocean physics or marine engineering.

Between now and then, Hansen will undoubtedly spend plenty of time beneath the surface of Monterey Bay, a place she’s come to appreciate not only for its natural environment but for the opportunities it has afforded her. 

"I’ve had people invest in me,” she said. “A lot of my professors go the extra mile to get their students where they need to be. I can’t think of a better place for me to be.”

This story is part of an ongoing series. Find other stories here