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Difference Maker: Amy Kukulya
Oceanographic Engineer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Describe your work – what you do on a daily basis…
I plan Logistics for field operations and implement new sensors mechanically and electrically onto our underwater robots. After bench testing, I test our underwater systems off a boat in Woods Hole in preparation for Science or Exploration to places like the Arctic, Greece or Hawaii.
What do you like to do outside work?
I can never spend enough time on the water, so I usually lobster off my boat or just explore the Elizabeth Islands in the warmer months. I surf, play tennis, snow ski and love to travel. I also spend lots of time tinkering on all sorts of home projects.
How/When did you know you’d be a (scientist) someday?
I knew first that I was interested in exploring the oceans when I grew up crabbing and boating with my grandparents. I believe it is important to be curious and to find something you love to do and figure out a way to get paid to do it! It wasn’t until I moved to Woods Hole that I was introduced to world renowned technology that shapes the way we explore our world’s oceans and now it is hard to imagine doing anything else.
What are the most difficult challenges of your work?
The most difficult parts of the job are being away from home a lot and having to work closely with a wide variety of people. It is important to communicate well with your peers to ensure a good working relationship. Also, there is no such thing as a typical day of work here, so you have to be self motivated and organized in order to do your job well. Working long days on the water also makes it hard to plan your personal life, but as long as you find ways to love most aspects of your job, it is worth the sacrifices.
What are your favorite parts of your work?
I love not having a desk job and being able to work on a project from the ground up. It is incredibly fulfilling to work on a project from an idea all the way to it being fully implemented in the field and doing it with a group of people who also love their jobs.
How does math and science change the world?
Math is one of the most practical tools we have at our disposal. Math questions surround you and me all the time, everyday. It is powerful in creating prediction models for things like the rate of global warming, beach erosion and even the extinction of life on our planet. Understanding the why’s and what’s and how’s that surround us make math and science two of the coolest things to know and want to know.
How are you changing the world?
Every time I run a robot through our ocean, I am collecting things like temperature, salinity, currents, bathymetry, underwater pictures and video in places that have never been explored. These data contain important information that may be integral in understanding the planet we live on and some of the great mysterious of our history on Earth. The more data we collect, the more math we need to do in order to predict the future of our planet’s well being.
Who was your inspiration?
My inspiration came from positive encouragement from my family. They never told me not to try something, but to keep trying new things until you find something you love. That was very important in developing courage and strength.
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subjects in school were math and environmental policy. I enjoyed learning about the world’s environmental problems and their impacts on human civilizations. It made understanding math more practical in knowing that you can design models in order to make predictions on how fast our planet was changing and to hypothesize how to slow down our negative impacts.
What advice do you have for teen girls today?
You should always give 110%, never stop asking questions, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Most of all, never be afraid of Math and Science, they could be your best allies in paving your future and fun too!
Describe yourself in one word…
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