Director of Innovation at FAPERN/Coordinator of Space Analog Station @HabitatMarte
The space experience must be creative, cooperative and respectful. This is what the partnership established between the analog space station Habitat Marte and InnovaSpace is all about. The operationalization of the Habitat Marte project has permitted the bringing together of numerous enthusiastic people from the space area, this being the case for the virtual meeting that took place between myself and Thais Russomano, CEO of InnovaSpace.
When I see how much more we can do to help children and young people through the debate, education and popularisation of science using the space theme, this generates a high state of consciousness. It’s excellent having the possibility of interacting with the right people in order to create genuine relationships and interest in the professional growth and development of others, thus collaborating for a better world, with more justice and prosperity, especially for those who would like to include themselves more in the aerospace field. Many people find the space theme to be very inspiring and it seems to foster confidence and a great sense of personal fulfilment. I observe this in the trajectory of many young people who see this area as a future professional field
Bringing space into the forum of debate helps to expand our awareness and embrace a new vision/perception of problem-solving, as we have observed in the Habitat Marte experience where we are contemplating future space stations and how they can operate as self-sustaining models, considering water and waste management, food production in closed systems and energy generation. Indeed, the research interest in these three areas can translate to benefit the sustainability of planet Earth, especially in arid and semi-arid regions and those under the threat of climate change.
Furthermore, the popularisation of science education using space as a conduit can contribute to a revolution in education, as researchers believe space can serve as a gateway to attract the interest of children and young people and stimulate their enthusiasm for the STEAM areas, or as I put it S3TEAM - Space Science Sustainability Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics.
Retaining that interest in space can guide scientific career and advanced training choices, which is likely, in time, to lead to innovation and solutions to important problems faced on planet Earth. In this sense, the Habitat Marte space analog station is a pioneering project, as it has led to many young people developing new skills and building greater self-confidence to undertake careers and projects linked to space.
Habitat Marte emerged as an analog space station in December 2017, completing 3 years of activity during 2020. Before the pandemic in Brazil emerged, 32 missions had been carried out, however, following the spread of the coronavirus, face-to-face missions were suspended, and the alternative of virtual missions was introduced, which led to Habitat Marte completing 62 missions by the end of 2020. In addition, Habitat Marte has transformed from being a national organisation with Brazilian participants only, to receiving international applications from 28 countries.
At this moment it is important to present the values of Habitat Marte:
Creativity - because I believe in a methodology of encouraging participants to think about various characteristics of the operation of a Mars station, and these ideas have led to the publication of abstracts and papers.
Respect – because we believe in equality in all things, with women making up more than a quarter of our participants and our policy is to not discriminate on the basis of nationality, religion, social class, gender or sexual preference. Habitat Marte does not make judgments on these matters but encourages everyone.
Collaboration – because the activities of Habitat Marte focus on the participation of people from different areas of knowledge, generating opportunities to participate in competitions and other activities, to promote the creation of new content for application in space and on Earth.
Our social networks constantly share motivational knowledge and invitations for new participants. More information about Habitat Marte can be found by searching for the @HabitatMarte profile on social media, and by accessing our YouTube channel, where you will find almost 300 videos of quality content, many of which demonstrate the contribution of our projects to the ideals of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With creativity, we hope that Habitat Marte will continue to expand its activities throughout 2021, finding economic sustainability, and also strengthening its ties with InnovaSpace.
Space Law & Policy Analyst
On the 2nd of October 2020, the Astro Zimba space education curriculum for young children began its programme, launching a pilot study with the Whitestone School, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. This space education curriculum recognises that building Zimbabwe’s space autonomy is hinged on the nation’s capacity to make a critical mass of skilled individuals. This capacity-building must necessarily begin from the early developmental stages.
The Astro Zimba curriculum, created by myself and Marco Romero, in collaboration with InnovaSpace and Students for Exploration & Development of Space (Zimbabwe), is a series of lectures on space and space-related themes, using interactive sessions, games, videos, comic books and other learning activities to spark space science and technology curiosity amongst the youth. This is done in the hopes that more children, especially young girls, will be inspired to take up STEM subjects and careers. The founders of this programme identified a gap in existing curricula, one which they wish had been filled during their initial years, and one which they believe has a profound impact on the development of the space industry.
Space sciences and technology, while a rapidly developing and exciting field, can often be quite a technical subject area for young children to understand. That said, having a dedicated programme which delivers science content in an engaging, tailored and fun way helps to boost interest in young children. It has the dual effect of inspiring both genders to become involved, which is the goal of the Valentina project for girls, facilitated by InnovaSpace, acknowledging that young girls are underrepresented in the STEM sciences. Giving access to quality education boosts social and economic circumstances, alleviates poverty and empowers young girls, positively impacting on the SDG 1 (poverty reduction), SDG4 (quality education) and SDG5 (gender equality).
The following lesson plans were presented during the pilot study. The introductory video sought to spark the learner’s curiosity and inspire more children to pursue careers in the space industry. Having careers in the space industry, the Founders thought it important to add a touch of personal experience and insights, including initiatives that have made a difference in their personal career journeys. The learners are introduced to each week’s theme through an interactive video message, before proceeding with practical in-person class sessions.
As can be seen from the introductory lectures, the Astro Zimba programme is intended to be a very low and cost-effective means of disseminating critical space education and information, tailoring it to a young audience, and creating a model that will one day be replicated through schools throughout the country and Africa. As the programme gains momentum, so will the need for more resources and collaborators, especially towards the procurement of equipment (such as telescopes), and funding (towards the publishing of a space education handbook, videos, and other digital content).
The use of visual media has had a profound impact on children because much of their learning has been facilitated through Google Classrooms. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a virtual platform has meant that the children can still participate and receive content even from the comfort of their homes. This has made a tremendous impact on the potential to scale vital space education and skills to even the most remote of communities. Which is why the Astro Zimba project will also diversify into Youtube and podcast versions, to cater to as many diverse needs and requirements across the country. We count on your support to continue to make this endeavour a reality for all children in Zimbabwe.
The InnovaSpace Team says: If you would like to find out more about the Astro Zimba project, please do get in touch and we will put you in contact with Ruvimbo - it is an excellent project!
My Dad and I have discovered a way to combine the smartphone iPad with ultraviolet/infrared with space observation telescopy to make space discoveries, with assistance of the DIGI phone network and iCloud. My Dad and I devised this lens innovation. We were always fascinated by the surface of the Moon and planet Mars.
We also won an International Special Award presented by the World Invention Intellectual Property Association (WIIPA), and a Gold Award and Special Award presented by the Toronto International Society of Innovation & Advanced skills (TISIAS) Canada
The International Programme Committee (IPC) also selected our presentation - Lunar Surface, To Support Growth & Development Of A Sustainable Society On The Moon - for their repository at the Moon Village Association's online Workshop & Symposium in cooperation with the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation.
My Mom is also a part of our team. The role of women is important in space discovery and space planetary surface observation technologies, and women like my mom and their abilities don’t get recognised enough. The UNOOSA Space4women mentors are always trying to get more kids my age and women to participate in space programs globally through their network.
Take a look at all of the Moon photographs captured and displayed here. These were all as a result of our invention, the space lens innovation smartphone iPad ultraviolet infrared incorporated into telescopy, which we recently filed for a patent in Malaysia. It was difficult to know how to commercialise our space lens innovation product as we couldn’t find anyone to give us advice in Malaysia, so we had to learn by ourselves and by getting bits and pieces of advice from international space agencies.
We have thousands of videos and photographs that we've captured, and these could potentially help to prepare other kids my age for space and lunar exploration.
The team at InnovaSpace would like to congratulate Arav for some amazing photos of the Moon & planets, and for all his study and hard work. Congratulations must also go to Arav's Mom and Dad for all the encouragement and support they clearly give him, which is so invaluable. Keep studying Arav and keep looking up to the stars - perhaps one day you may find your place among them on the Moon or Mars!
This week InnovaSpace is highlighting the great work taking place in Angola by the Academy of Kandengue Scientists, with a blog written by Mentor of the project Pedro Paris and Aeronautical Engineer Marco Romero. We thank the Academy for the contribution of their students to our Kids2Mars project - and for their amazing work in creating opportunity for the local people and community! You are all stars!
The Academy of Kandendgue Scientists is a technology-based start-up that empowers children and adults from 5 to 25 years of age, instilling the seed of inventive and technological skills from an early age. Enabling children to discover their own potential helps them to avoid bad practices, such as drugs, prostitution and delinquency, and envisages a society that is technologically well prepared for future challenges, and perhaps even a renewed Africa.
Formed in 2017 by Professor and Inventor Pedro Paris (telecommunications technician) and Aeronautical Engineer Marco Romero, the project aims to provide more opportunities for children and young people without access to education.
In 2012, an ordinary residence in Viana in the province of Luanda was transformed into a laboratory, an explanatory and preparatory centre, and 5 years later the idea was born to include children who lacked the opportunity to access education, but who, like others, had the enormous potential to become “Kandengue Scientists”. The Academy already has the involvement of around 80 Kandengues aged from 6 to 30 years, of which 30 are now tutors with more than 5 years of experience, having been trained by Professor Pedro Paris.
KANDENGUE VISION: To transform children and adults from Angola, Africa and the World into budding scientists and professional IT technicians, so they can provide solutions to the problems of their community and country.
KANDENGUE MISSION: To bring sustainable technologies to the neediest communities, occupying the spare time of children and adults with art, education and sustainable technology.
KANDENGUE VALUES: Discipline, Love, Patriotism
In recent years, more than 976 children and adults from private and public schools, and foster homes throughout the nation have learned the basics of electronics, robotics, programming, game development, applications, aeronautics and space technology, thanks to the “Kandengue Scientists”. Changes in the lives of many families can already be felt, having received the tools and knowledge needed to put bread on their tables, having access to schools and universities, and solving community problems.
The financial and logistical difficulties for ensuring better conditions for the children in the development of educational activities are initially resolved by the tutors, who create teaching methods and materials tailored to existing conditions, for example, reusing electronic waste for e-learning and the creation of decorative and visual arts. Partnerships with public entities have already taken place in 2019 and 2020, such as with the network of Angolan media libraries, Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technologies (MTTI), National Technology Centre, Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESCTI), BusCenter, Unitel, Methodist University of Angola, and the Seaka Center (Angolan Spiritualist Society Allan Kardec), in which the academy made available 10 professors to help the institution with a lack of teaching staff.
Some of our KEY SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES are:
And below are just some of the ideas and projects the Kandengue Scientists have been developing:
“innovations arise from simple ideas that fully resolve the observed problem”
If you would like to know more about the Kandengue Scientists and the wonderful work they do in Angola,
do get in touch with Marco Romero at - Pariscientista@gmail.com
The First Lego League (FLL) is an annual international tournament involving teams of young people aged 9-16 years. It introduces a scientific and real-world challenge for teams to focus on, research, and create solutions to identified problems, and includes a robotics challenge to perform a set task with a programmable robot constructed from LEGO electronic and mechanical components. This year, over 40,400 teams competed in regional, national and international tournaments with their ideas, including team AC/DC/EG from Brazil, who had a very successful competition and were kind enough to give us an insight into their FLL Into Orbit experience in this year's competition, in their words below:
"The AC/DC/EG team was created on 07/12/2007 to represent the Eduardo Gomes College in São Caetano do Sul, Brazil in the FIRST LEGO League tournament. The team name is formed from the name of the rock band AC/DC together with EG for Eduardo Gomes, and so far, we have participated in competitions at 11 State, 11 National and 7 International stages.
The 2018/2019 FLL - INTO ORBIT tournament has been sensational for us. Our team began taking shape in May 2018, and underwent some changes, beginning with 8 team members and finishing up with 5 members - Eduardo, Felipe and Sophia (from the beginning), and later joined by Gabriella and Fernanda. And it was with this team of 5 that our coach Reginaldo and mentors Giovanni and Giovanna reached the end of the competition.
The official launch of the FLL tournament took place on August 1st 2018, so we used the time from May to August to research several problems related to this year's theme by visiting universities, watching films and videos, reading books, magazines and theses, and talking to experts in the field.
At the beginning of September, we talked with Aerospace Medicine & Space Physiology specialist Dr Thais Russomano, presenting to her everything we had studied so far, and it was during one of our initial conversations that we realised there was a problem faced by astronauts, which is: WASHING IN SPACE
We already had the FLL competition documentation in this initial period of our discussions so we began to compare the problems raised to make sure they fitted in with the competition guidelines. In all, we analysed 14 problems:
A phrase we heard that marked our work was by NASA space scientist Robert Frost, who said: "When several people are trapped in an enclosed space, HYGIENE IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE." So, having done our analysis, we chose the subject of how to wash the body in space and defined our problem:
THE INEFFICIENCY OF WASHING IN MICROGRAVITY
And we asked:
HOW CAN WASHING BE MADE MORE EFFICIENT IN MICROGRAVITY?
We continued studying, raising new points and discussing them with Dr Russomano. We looked at the ways of washing that have previously been used and the current method of washing in space.
⇨ A sponge with soap and water, used during the Gemini and Apollo missions.
⇨ A shower on the MIR Space Station that wasted a lot of time, water and energy.
⇨ The Russian kit, which consists of a pre-moistened wipe and can be used for up to 3 days, using less water.
⇨ The NASA Kit, which is a cloth moistened with soap and water.
We noted that, to be ideal, washing should be able to deal with dead skin cells, sweat, oiliness, odour, and bacteria and fungi!
We had a lot of ideas, including a kind of human jet wash that used little water – but this and other ideas were discarded as our objective was for something low-cost, water-free and lightweight, that would occupy very little space on a spacecraft.
It was in thinking about this goal that we discovered a gel called DryBath, created by Ludwick Marishane, mostly for use on the African continent and in places with a scarcity/lack of water. Ludwick’s idea is that water should only be used for drinking and cooking, and for washing it can be replaced by the gel. With just 15ml of the gel, it is possible for an adult to wash without using water, and without the need to remove the gel from skin, as it is moisturising. All of our team tried using the gel, including our coach.
The benefits of the gel in comparison with the existing solutions are enormous, as besides dispensing with the need for water for washing, there is a gain in transport weight and the gel occupies a minimum of space on a spacecraft. However, we needed to know its viability for use in space, so we talked to Chemical Engineer Matheus Messias, who confirmed the gel is non-flammable, and with Dermatologist Oswaldo Cipullo, who said the gel fulfils all the requirements for body washing and can be used daily.
Nonetheless, the current gel packaging makes it unfeasible for use in space, as it generates a lot of waste. Therefore, after some brainstorming and tests, we developed a new storage and application system utilising a 2-litre urine collection bag filled with gel, calculating that each explorer would need 3 such bags to cover a 1-year period. Each bag is fitted with a valve connector to guarantee the pressure required to transport the gel into a syringe-type applicator, which allows its controlled delivery to the body.
This system for gel storage and use saves important resources, enables fast application, requires no cleaning of the equipment, has no loss, and needs no repairs. Currently, 4 litres of water is used in space per wash, whereas, with this quantity of gel it would be possible to have 266 washes, meaning water will no longer be needed for washing the body and can be used for something else within the spacecraft. The cost of the gel and the system is 1610 Brazilian real (approx. £310) per person for a year.
Therefore, it is possible to take something that was designed for use on Earth and adapt it to make its use possible in space, rather like the tortillas of astronaut Rodolfo Vela, as quoted in the FLL Into Orbit competition guidelines."
The InnovaSpace team would like to congratulate the AC/DC/EG team and everyone who supported them for their success and the enthusiasm and joy they brought to the tournament stages! Congratulations also go to the thousands of teams from around the world for their hard work, curiosity, research and enthusiasm - YOU ARE ALL STARS!
Authors: Kids from the STEP Computer Academy
And InnovaSpace Admin Director - Mary Upritchard
Over the last few months, InnovaSpace's very own space doctor, Thais Russomano, has been listening to some of the First Lego League tournament teams talking about the projects they have developed for this year’s Into Orbit mission, answering their questions and giving some tips as to areas they might also consider. The annual competition has teams taking part from all over the world (92 different countries this year), adopting a different theme each time linked to robotics and the STEM areas, and aimed at encouraging young students to improve critical thinking and team-building skills, stimulating their creativity and giving the opportunity to present their projects in public in front of judges. As part of this year’s competition, students have been thinking about ways to improve the life, health and wellbeing of astronauts in space, with some really constructive and original ideas being contemplated by these bright young minds.
We were approached by teams from the STEP Computer Academy in Seattle USA a little while back, with great questions they had about their projects. With Thais having given them some feedback, we were delighted to hear recently that 3 of the 5 Into Orbit teams from the academy had made it through to the semi-finals of their national competition, and we are even more delighted now to be able to present three short texts from those teams:
Hello! We are the Galaxy Rulers – a fun and hardworking FIRST LEGO league team from Bellevue, Washington, USA. Our team consists of 8 teammates: Adam, Felix, Owen, Princeton, Urvi, Vanesha, Varshini, and Vedika. We are working on a project to reduce health problems like homesickness in long-term space missions like the Mars 100 mission—Mars colonization project. After getting assistance and opinions from experts and doing research, we came to a solution.
Astronauts can benefit from reminders of home to fight homesickness, so we decided to use plants. Plants can remind astronauts of Earth and beautiful nature. Our solution is totally innovative, as we are using customized plants that the astronauts are familiar with or it is their state flower or plant. We hope that our solution will solve real-world problems in the future.
WE ARE THE GALAXY RULERS
WE MEASURE THE GALAXY!
Hello everyone! We are The Titans! We are a First LEGO League team from Bellevue, WA, USA!
We have 8 teammates: Nikita, Irina, Ayush, Amish, Neev, Amish, Henry, and Liam.
We are working on a project that helps astronauts cope with stress in space. We did research and talked to experts, and found out that astronauts experience a lot of stress on the ISS. A solution to that is to create a relaxation method that will help astronauts reduce stress while working in space.
We are working on a relaxation booth that will address various astronauts’ senses. We propose a relaxation booth that will have real plants inside, relaxation music and a variety of calming scents.
Hi there! We are a First LEGO League team called Space Pirate Pickles!
We are from Bellevue, Washington, United States and we have six members on our team: Liam, Tony, Koden, Hanming, Michael and Vishnu.
Our project is to find new ways to protect astronauts from the space radiation when on long-term space missions. According to our research, such non-technical and easily accessible things like vitamins (D, E, C etc.), iodine-based foods, plants (aloe vera, cactuses), placebos and acupuncture can add to the protection from space radiation. So to solve this problem, we suggest combining non-technical and technical solutions (e.g. thermos-nuclear rockets).
We believe the problem of space radiation will be solved and we will be able to safely (health-wise) travel to far away planets.
We also want to add that First LEGO League has been a great learning experience. FLL journey is all about discovery, learning something new every day, cooperating sharing what we learned with others.
Many InnovaSpace congratulations to the teams from the STEP computer academy, and to all the teams who have taken part in this prestigious tournament - you are all stars!
Wishing the very best of luck to the Galaxy Rulers, The Titans, and the Space Pirate Pickles for their semi-final presentations, and to the many other teams in their national competitions all around the world - ad astra!
InnovaSpace Admin Director
With another year now drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the two very successful InnovaSpace Kids2Mars events that took place in 2018 involving questions asked by children to crew members of Mars analogue missions, one with the MDRS Crew 185 in the Utah desert and the other with the Austrian Space Forum’s AMADEE-18 mission in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
In summary, 53 children from 33 different countries from around the world had the opportunity to ask anything they wanted about travelling to and life on Mars, and very interesting answers came back from analogue astronauts and crew members who spent their time isolated in desert regions, especially chosen for their similarities to the planet Mars.
Analogue astronauts on this type of mission in general have little spare time, as they are involved in many research activities, so we knew we could not bombard them with a mountain of questions. This in fact also linked well with our aims for the Kids2Mars project, which was to involve children from as many different countries as possible – quantity of countries rather than quantity of questions. With our tagline of Space Without Borders, this aspect was of prime importance, so an end result of 33 countries was very satisfying, especially so considering the diverse range of nations involved, such as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Mongolia and Nepal. In fact, we had questions coming from countries in 6 of the 7 continents, just missing out on Antarctica, which for obvious reasons is a little more difficult!
It was interesting to hear how the name of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war, was pronounced in the various languages. Certainly, the sound of the word was the same or very similar to the English pronunciation in the majority of cases, however, there were a few exceptions, such as from China, Japan, Nepal, Libya and Indian Tamil. We have extracted the word Mars, where mentioned, from all of the children’s questions and with the invaluable help of our two collaborators from Italy, Fabio Pinna and Mario Mollo, created a short video – we hope you like it!
One thing that has become obvious from all the Kids2Mars activities we have conducted is how much the subject of space and space travel arouses curiosity, and how much the young people involved in the lectures and creative pursuits have done so with great enthusiasm and interest. In our view, this is exactly why outreach activities linked to Mars or the Moon or astronauts, in fact anything involving space, can be used as a tool to capture the attention and interest of children, motivating them to give more consideration to the STEM areas of education. Although the adults of today are laying and securing the foundations of human life in space, it is our children who will build on this to become the Space Generation, and perhaps in time, even future Mars colonisers!
Gabriela Albandes de Souza
InnovaSpace Culture & Education Project Manager
The InnovaSpace outreach projects Valentina and Astronaut for a Day had another edition in Brazil last week, with company founder, Dr. Thais Russomano, giving two space science talks to students from the state school Olegário Mariano, in Porto Alegre.
The first lecture, watched by 48 teenagers from the 9th year (aged 14-15 years), focused on the Valentina initiative, which aims is to raise the interest of girls in the sciences and to break gender prejudice by highlighting those women who have made important contributions to the development of the space program since its inception. Following a final Q & A session in which the curious students asked many interesting questions, the group were asked to use their creativity to build a rocket using simple materials provided by the school, such as fizzy drink bottles, cardboard boxes and aluminium foil. Chatting with the students afterwards we found that, while some said they already intended to pursue careers in the STEM areas, others became interested after getting to know the many possibilities that these fields offer.
The second lecture of the day, called Astronaut for a Day and attended by 25 5th year students (aged 10-11 years), explained how astronauts live and work in space, the impact of microG and radiation on human physiology, and the importance of the spacecraft and spacesuit in keeping the astronauts alive and well in space. The students also watched a video about the life of the crew aboard the ISS and were amazed by the differences between life in space and on Earth. These inquisitive young people actively participated in the event, raising their hands to answer questions posed by Dr. Russomano (five raised hands when asked who wanted to be an astronaut), and coming up with questions of their own about many aspects of life in space. At the end of the presentation, this group were set the task of making a spacesuit from the materials provided, while a group of young ladies resolved to create a spacecraft.
The team at InnovaSpace send a big thank you to biologist Adriana Bos-Mikich, who conducted the first Astronaut for a Day project in Brazil and introduced us to the Director of the Olegário Mariano school, Gustavo Adolfo Albrecht, who welcomed the initiative. Our thanks also go to the Science and Biology teachers, Marcia Tagliani and Johnny Pereira de Aguiar respectively, who helped greatly in organising the activities.
A few members of the InnovaSpace team had the pleasure of meeting up in September this year in the beautiful city of Lisbon. Although primarily for work purposes linked to the launch of the Space Network (Rede Espaço) at the University of Lisbon, we must NEVER forget to mix a little pleasure wherever the opportunity presents itself - and as you will see from the photos, we had fun in Lisbon too!
Picturesque Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, full of history, culture, and great food. The traditional dish bacalhau (codfish) is famous and has to be tried, while for lovers of something a little sweeter, the pastéis de Belém (a type of egg custard tart) are legendary and were originally made by monks of the Jerónimos Monastery using a secret recipe. As many of these mouth-watering tarts were eaten in our time in Lisbon, it seemed only fitting that we should also visit their place of invention! The former monastery dates back to 1495 and is well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day, and it was from there that Dr. Joan Vernikos, former NASA Director of Life Sciences recorded the few words below, encouraging young people to consider following a career in space research - there couldn't have been a more beautiful setting!
The tagline of the InnovaSpace Valentina project is ‘Science is for girls too!’ – an ideal we very much support, and an excellent example of which is Space Physiologist, Dr. Julia Attias, who is a PhD Researcher at King's College London.
I had the pleasure of meeting Julia a few years ago when she was doing her Master’s degree in Space Physiology and Health (2012) at King’s College London, which then led on to her completing a PhD in Space Physiology (2018). Julia is passionate about inspiring young ladies to pursue a career in the STEM areas, and dedicates some of her time to writing blogs for websites such as WISE (Women In Science and Engineering), and a charity, GlamSci, aimed at breaking down perceived stereotypes and barriers to STEM areas. We asked Julia a few questions about her life and path to becoming a space physiologist:
What sort of child were you?
I can say I was a very energetic child and very focused on sports activities from a very early age. My Mum was a tennis coach, so from about the age of about 4 years old, I could be found running around a tennis court, gripping my first racquet in hand, on which someone had spray-painted the letter ‘J’. Naturally enough by the time I started school my favourite subject was PE (physical education), at which I was always very competitive indeed!
What were your school years like?
I was lucky enough to go to great schools; I enjoyed my school years and made some good friends. At primary school I sometimes used to get in trouble for talking too much, but in fact it wasn’t just idle chatter for the sake of it, it was my constant curiosity about anything and everything that made me ask questions and comment out loud - too loud sometimes!
I loved music (probably inspired by my Dad who was a drummer) and being in plays at primary school, and continued this on into my teenage years when I joined the Pineapple Performing Arts School in Covent Garden. I learned street dance, singing and acting there, and grew up wanting to be in front of the camera - this ambition I have since achieved through participating in a Discovery Channel series called 'Meet The SuperBrains' and more recently in the Channel 4 series 'Food Unwrapped''.
What sparked your interest in science?
Through all my sporting activity, the idea that humans are designed to move around was embedded in me from a very young age. I would run around the tennis court and wonder why my heart beat so much faster, curious about the mechanisms involved within our body that allow us to run and jump, and improve our endurance and strength. In PE we began to have lessons about sports theory and I soon realised that science was a field of study that could answer some of my questions, whilst at the same time posing so many more questions that still required responses. This hooked my interest and I began to enjoy the triple sciences at high school, especially biology, as I could learn more about how the human body functions. This really did direct the path of my career as I then went on to take a sports science degree at university.
How did you jump from sports to space science?
I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘space-geek’ and I never started off with the intention of a career in space science. I was never drawn to watching sci-fi programs on TV or films, like Star Wars or Star Trek, but what I really found interesting when I did my degree was learning about how the body functions in extreme environments, and you can’t really get more of an extreme environment than being up in Space! Quite by chance I found out that King’s College do a Master’s degree in Space Physiology and Health, and so I jumped at the chance of doing in, and the rest is history! There is an overlap between sports science and space physiology because of the fundamental scientific concepts that exist between them, but there are many other science disciplines you can study where you will also find this overlap, for example nutrition, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, physiotherapy, and many, many more.
What advice would you give to girls who are at school right now?
Don’t be put off by the STEM subjects at school and try to study some of them. You might have no idea at the moment what career you want to follow, but if you have some of the core subjects there it will always help you, as they always overlap with so many other areas.
Don’t be put off by stereotypes of the sciences and engineering being only for boys – times are changing and will continue to change. As a woman in the area of space science, I have to admit that I still see far fewer women than men when I look around the conference room of a scientific congress, however, I don’t see this as a negative - I see it as a golden opportunity for me to make my mark and to help change attitudes for the future generation.
Try to find something you feel passionate about – this will fill you with the motivation you need to work hard, be determined, and succeed.
And to finish off a few random questions...