Mike Ott headshot photo

Mike Ott

Science/Data Team
Naval Engineer
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

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

The majority of my work focuses on developing new technologies and systems in the undersea domain for naval applications. These systems advance the "state of the art" for underwater detection and communication. Additionally, I strive to identify new ideas across the maritime space which to advance or supplement current military capabilities. For these programs, I work with technology subject matter experts to understand the current state of existing capabilities and identify areas where technological advancements are both necessary and possible.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I grew up in Southeastern Virginia constantly in and around the water which kindled my love for most things maritime. This, combined with my engineering studies, fostered an intellectual curiosity that I'm fortunate enough to be able to pursue professionally. The undersea domain provides such a harsh environment with a multitude of challenges that has recently drawn the majority of my focus.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My father is a naval engineer and was instrumental in exposing me to this field as early as I can remember. Growing up with a machine shop in our garage was a blessing to me and probably a curse to my mom when she found me alone using my dad's lathe when I was eight years old.

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

The idea that we probably know more about outer space than we do about the deep ocean environment. This offers endless opportunities for advancement.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I started my professional career in the U.S. Navy operating nuclear reactors on air craft carriers. This was an incredibly challenging and rewarding opportunity. When I left the Navy, I pivoted a bit with my career toward management consulting. After a few years of this, I realized that my passions were elsewhere and that I needed to get back towards engineering. That brought me to my current position providing engineering and technical support to DARPA for maritime programs.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering - Tufts University 2006; Naval Nuclear Power School 2009

What are your hobbies?

I love pretty much everything sports and outdoors. I've also picked up woodworking over the past 3 years.

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

Maintain an open mind and an intellectual curiosity and surround yourself with like-minded people. This will constantly push you to be better and learn more - while challenging your beliefs and understanding. If you find yourself in a position where this isn't the case then do something to fix it!