Amy Kukulya

Amy Kukulya

Senior Ocean Vehicle Operations Engineer
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
Amy Kukulya
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Amy helps design underwater robots that can search for shipwrecks and map the ocean floor.  She works at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Amy equips underwater robots (called AUVs—autonomous underwater vehicles) so that cameras and sound detectors can be attached. The robots can then take pictures and gather information about the ocean. She is also developing an underwater garage where the robots can park for long periods of time, recharge, and download data. Amy says, “The technological advances that are taking place in my lab will not only help us understand the mysteries of our oceans but will allow us to understand our planet better. These underwater vehicles are expanding our knowledge of hot topics like global warming and climate change.”  Amy always loved the ocean, and she thought she would become a marine biologist. While working at Woods Hole, Amy learned that she could combine biology and engineering, thereby creating the perfect job for herself. “I realized engineering offers me more opportunities than biology does.”  “My grandparents exposed me to fishing, clamming, crabbing, boating, and a life on the water. Through these experiences, I learned to be curious and self-sufficient.” Amy’s work has taken her to Hawaii and Antarctica. When she isn't working she enjoys surfing, SCUBA diving, fishing, shucking oysters, and hunting lobsters. She loves skiing, winter camping, and traveling, too. Education B.S. in environmental policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. She received her engineering training at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Watch her video! Amy has a  video on the Web site of the PBS TV show Design Squad. See her on the Discovery Channel! Shark Week kicks off on July 5th, 2015 on the Discovery Channel.  Amy will be featured in Shark Trek on Sunday night, July 5 at 8pm.

Answers by Amy Kukulya

Hello Debdeep.

Thank you for your question and I apologize in the delay of my response.
There are several ways of answering this question depending on your age.
For example, if you are younger then 18 and have not entered into university yet, the most important thing is to realize that you are interested in engineering, specifically robotics. I would assume that you enjoy tinkering, or fixing electronics and equipment around your house and knowing how stuff works. If you already have the ability to troubleshoot components and have a gift for taking things apart and putting them back together, you are a great candidate for a robotics career.

I cannot emphasize enough how important the subjects of math and science are early on in your schooling. Take a diverse selection of classes ranging in science like physics, chemistry, biology and complement it with advanced math classes. One of the most important qualities in a student and an employee/engineer is to be well rounded. It is not enough to build a robot, but it is important and a lot more fun if you can understand the applications of what you are creating. For example, I work with robots that explore our oceans. My team is constantly improving our technology by using the robots in conjunction with scientists who we specifically design them for. If a scientist wants to be able to take photos in 6000 meters of dark, turbid waters of a shipwreck, we need to design a system that can swim that deep and take pictures using flashes and that can navigate blindly. Developing strong communication skills is another important professional skill.

You should begin to do internet searches for companies/schools that offer internships or study abroad opportunities. There is a lot of scholarship money available for engineering especially for women and minorities that goes unused every year. Spend some time doing some background research. Also, try to immerse yourself in a broad engineering path if you haven't already done so and then slowly specialize in robotics. Maybe there is a specific application of robotics you are interested in? Find something you love and figure out a way to get paid to do it. Sometimes you have to take a job that isn't your dream job but it can be a stepping stone into something else later on. Always keep an open mind and network with people as much as possible. You just never know what opportunity is awaiting behind every door.

Good luck and let me know if I can offer more specific information.

Amy Kukulya