The Team

Ship Location

Papahānaumokuākea MNM, USA

Manyu Belani

Photo of Manyu Belani
ROV Engineering Intern
Engineer II
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I am a mechanical engineer for the Deep Submergence Lab, working on Sentry, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. I go to sea with the robot when we're called to investigate deep-sea questions for science, maintaining the physical system and making sure it's in good shape for every dive. I also spend time on shore designing new parts for the vehicle, whether it's a better mechanism to fix an issue we saw on a previous dive or a mount for new sensors that scientists want to take to the bottom of the ocean.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Growing up I was a Sea Scout, and it gave me a deep appreciation for doing work while at sea. I do engineering now, but I spent most of my time in the galley back then, cooking for our crew. Since getting out of college, I've mostly worked as a mechanical engineer on industrial-scale robots, and I thought it was time to try and combine those skills with my passion for going to sea.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I've had some really great mentors over the years--some of them were my managers and others were friends that work on similar things to me, but I think my sister is the person who's influenced me the most to pursue a career that I'm proud of.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I love all the little details of fitting a robot together. It's easy to look at a vehicle like Sentry or Hercules and see a single unit. That big picture hides so many interesting little conflicts and trade-offs, for space or weight or power, that arise from the fact that a single machine is a complicated community of parts and designs. It's fun to break down systems like that and start to see how their individual components influence the greater whole.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I've had some interesting engineering jobs leading up to now, including working on automated robots in factories, a giant energy-generating kite, and some sweet electric cars. However, the things that lead me to ocean engineering, in particular, were outside of my career--because I was interested and curious, I found opportunities to volunteer with groups that were exploring lakes or cleaning up beaches or just getting people into water sports.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Ocean and Mechanical Engineering -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2013

What are your hobbies?

I love to dance, whether it's learning new choreography or just free-styling. I've also started trying to get into the brand-new sport of hydrofoil surfing--I think it's the only way to fly!

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Vocabulary! Good engineers have a deep "vocabulary" of ways to solve problems, like mechanisms that do interesting things, materials that have useful properties, or formulas for figuring out if something's going to work before you build it. Keep your eyes open for these things, and collect them in your notes for later.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?

I recently started at Woods Hole and had applied to the OET ROV Internship before getting my position. When they invited me to come and intern on the Nautilus, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some experience on a different kind of robot.