An Interview With Professor Burak

Katherine O’Gara

Water Burak is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Sciences. I got to know Professor Burak after taking his Oceanography class this semester and found that he had a great life story, one that should be archived.


 What led you to Suffolk? I started working for SCCC back in 2005 as a Professional Assistant setting up lab equipment for Anatomy and Physiology lab classes. At the time I was in the process of getting my master’s degree in Marine Science from Stony Brook University. Once I got my degree I heard that the college was looking for a part-time instructor to teach Oceanography and I jumped at the chance. That was 15 years ago, and I’ve taught Oceanography every semester since except for one. I love teaching part-time at Suffolk and find it extremely rewarding. There is nothing I love more than sharing my passion for science and the natural world.      

Did you always know what you wanted to do? Not at all! I started out in college as a business major, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that it wasn’t for me. I took some time off and worked a couple of different jobs. For a while, I even thought I wanted to work in film and television production. After knocking on lots of doors and even working for free, I came to realize that wasn’t for me. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life in a darkened windowless room editing videos, especially when my first love was being in the great outdoors? 

I was planning on going back to college when the opportunity knocked. I was looking into taking an extended working vacation by volunteering at one of the National Parks out west. I was talking with Glacier National Park in Montana about volunteering there when they told me about an opportunity with the U.S. Forest Service’s fisheries projects. I ended up volunteering for three months (earning a small stipend and a round- trip ticket from New York) but was then hired on a temporary basis for another three months.  I went back to Alaska the following spring, and to make a long story short, I ended up living in Alaska for seven years there working as a Fisheries Technician for the Forest Service. While there I went back to college and graduated with a degree in biology from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Aside from teaching at Suffolk, what else do you do for a career? I’m a fisheries biologist with the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (DEC). I’ve been with the DEC for about 6 years, and prior to that, I was a biologist for New York State Parks here in the Long Island region.

Going back to when you were living in Alaska, where else have you lived? I grew up here in New York, and besides Alaska, I’ve also lived and worked in Hawaii for several months, Florida for winter, and for a year in New Orleans while on an academic exchange.

What is one place you want to live and why?  My wife, Yvette, and I are toying with the idea of eventually retiring somewhere in Latin America,–Mexico, Costa Rica, or Ecuador. These are places we’ve been to together and really enjoyed. Ecuador would be a good choice because my wife has lots of family there. I love the vibe of Latin America and the tropics in general. I also can’t get enough of the warm blue oceans of the tropics.

Is there anywhere else you teach? I’ve also worked as an adjunct at both Stony Brook University and Dowelling College but only taught one class at Dowelling and only a couple at Stony Brook. This was before I started working at SCCC. Nowadays, besides my full-time teaching, just one class a semester is enough to keep me busy.

What are some of your hobbies? Fishing and boating. Did I mention I like to fish and boat? My wife and I also love to travel, especially when there is fishing involved.