NASA Ames Research Center, National Center for Plasma Science and Technology
Research Fellow at the Space Robotics Laboratory
I’m a maths, physics and space science graduate now living in Japan making spacecraft and travelling as much as possible.
I am a 26 year old, Dublin born, proud maths nerd who loves space, backpacking, and boring my friends with space facts.
I was one of the rare people in school who actually enjoyed maths so I went to do it as a degree in Trinity. Right after I finished that, I had the lucky opportunity to spend a summer in Florida at the NASA Kennedy Space Center doing a Space Studies Program. From there I did a Masters in France with the International Space University before heading back to NASA for a second summer, this time in California working on small satellites. I went back to Dublin and did a second masters, in Physics, at UCD. I then went to work for a year at the National Center for Plasma Science and Technology at DCU before jetting off to Japan for my current job.
I work for the Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohoku University in Japan developing satellites that observe the Earth and robots that explore the Moon.
Here is a short documentary of my boss discussing the race to the Moon our lab. is competing for:
As well as this, our laboratory makes many satellites, for which I focus a lot of my time. Currently, I am working on the Vietnamese 50kg satellite called MicroDragon set to launch in 2018. MicroDragon will use high-tech cameras to monitor the coastline of the Vietnam, as the fishing industry is an important contributor to the Veitnamese economy.
I am also currently designing a constellation of small satellites with my team here in Japan. These satellites can be used for a wide variety of uses including imaging the Earth, collecting scientific data of space, exploring deeper space outside Earth orbits, and much more
My Typical Day
Design and make spacecraft which usually involves solving lots and lots of problems, but very interesting ones
Power, Communications, Structure, Thermal Management, Pointing, On-board Computer, Science Instrument.
These are important factors of a satellite’s design and there are many more. When designing there are restrictions to your design such as mass, cost, size, power, etc. You might want a larger camera so you reduce the size of your pointing device which will decrease your accuracy, and also you now need more power for your bigger camera so you add more solar panels which then hikes up the cost. There’s a bunch of things to consider and get right for the whole satellite to be effective. It feels like you are managing a bunch of spinning plates trying to make sure none fall. Sounds daunting but it’s a lot fun.
This means that there are constantly new questions and problems to be answered. Right now as of this minute, I am currently working on decoding signals that arrive from the satellite to our ground station. Without a solid communications link between the ground and the satellite, you get no information, no fancy pictures, no scientific discoveries, and the satellite is of no use so it’s very important.
What I'd do with the money
A Space Robotics Workshop back home in Ireland
I would like to host a workshop that would teach students how to build a robot that is designed to go into space to explore other planets, or moons. My laboratory has regularly held these type of workshops in the past where students compete against each other to create robots that work without human input, collecting things and moving around a simulated planetary surface.
I would like to bring this to Ireland which would expose the school kids to space engineering and robotics while having fun learning about other planetary surfaces.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, odd, outgoing
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Simulated re-entry of a de-orbit satellite that launched from the International Space Station in 2013
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Love of space and the ould fella
What did you want to be after you left school?
A person involved with space missions in one form or another
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Of course as all kids are, but nothing serious
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Mathematician, or some sort of scientist
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Paolo Nutini, Luke Kelly, Klingande
What's your favourite food?
Mother’s Sunday roast
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Skydiving, backpacking and spending the summer in Florida at NASA
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Launch Ireland’s first satellite, travel the world and remain in very close contact with friends/family
Tell us a joke.
Telling people I love mathematics usually gathers a few laughs