The Team

Ship Location

San Pedro, USA

Nikolai Pawlenko

Photo of Nikolai  Pawlenko
Science/Data Team
Expedition Leader OER
NOAA Corps

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

Currently I am on assignment at the University of Rhode Island working with mission planning and operations for the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. Two days a week I am fortunate enough to work with our ROV team. Working on various projects from new sensors, vehicle maintenance and developing new capabilities. I also sail 2 cruises a year as a ROV engineer and I am training to become an Expedition Coordinator.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have always been interested in robotics. When I was a kid I would disassemble anything I could get my hands on, just to see how it worked. It drove my parents nuts, actually they were very supportive. I have also always had a love for the ocean and traveling. I read a book about ocean exploration and I was hooked, left a successful career of 12 years and never looked back.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My parents and family have been very supportive of my career choices over the years and encouraged me to pursue my current career. My father being an Engineer at Bell Labs and mother working for Parks and Recreation. Being away from home is not easy and my wife is great. She often travels to meet me at various ports and makes sure things are taken care of at home.

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

I think the technology that gets us there is most fascinating. The tools that we use to get to these remote places are really amazing. I am really looking forward to seeing what ocean exploration looks like in 5, 10 and 20yrs.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

One of the best jobs I ever had was renting boats at lake near my home in high school. I really liked being on the water. In college I studied engineering and thought it would be great to combine the two.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Masters in Business Administration

What are your hobbies?

I am a big fan of the the 3 Bs biking, boating and BBQs. Although I have no musical talent I really dig live music.

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

Figure out what you want to do and be relentless. Have your end goal in mind and take steps, always moving in that direction. You might come across some obstacles, put your head down and keep pushing toward your goal.