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What she did next! – a work experience case study

In October 2017 Louisa Arnell, then a school pupil, came to the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC)’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh, to participate in a week-long work experience placement.

Three years later, we catch up with her to find out how her time with us has shaped her career choices.

What are you doing now, Louisa?

“I am currently in my 2nd year of an Astrophysics degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, which I am really enjoying.

“I’ve also just finished a three day internship experience in technology with Bright Network – where I learned about the logistics and processes involved in developing tech, which I hope to be able to put into use very soon!”

What do you think you would like to do, ultimately?

“After I finish my BSc undergraduate degree, I hope to do an Astrophysics Masters, and then go on to study for a PhD. I am particularly interested in either becoming an astrophysicist or working in the space technology industry, (a choice informed by my time at UK ATC), especially if it involves sustainable space technology.”

What did you learn at UK ATC that has inspired your career interests?

“I learned some coding using Arduino, CAD on Inventor and how to account for errors in a telescopic image. At the end of the week, we applied all our new knowledge to a group project where we coded motors and a robotic arm to follow the path of the sun, and presented our project to staff members.

“The experience gave me my first insight into what it would be like to work in STEM, and helped to confirm that pursuing a career in STEM would be right for me.

“I met Dr Hermine Schnetler, Head of Group: Systems Engineering, which was interesting as she is a female engineer, in a field which is primarily comprised of men. It was inspiring to meet other women in STEM, including the other work experience students, who shared my passion for astronomy technology.

“The experience was really interesting and I also had a lot of fun. What I discovered about myself during my placement week, and in my work since, is that I enjoy problem solving; tackling a complex problem and finally finding a way to resolve it.”

Have you kept in touch with your mentors at UK ATC?

“Yes, I contacted Hermine recently to ask her advice and she was really helpful and supportive.”

That sounds really exciting Louisa, and we wish you the best of luck with it. Thank you for sharing with us your journey so far. We’re delighted to have had a part in it.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe's largest research organisations supporting scientists and engineers world-wide. Inspiring young people and the wider public is one of the STFC's main objectives – and STFC support careers in science, engineering and technology through, for example work experience placements across our three main labs – UK ATC, Daresbury Laboratory and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Based at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE) on Blackford Hill in Edinburgh and set against a heritage of astronomical observing in the City; UK ATC is a ground-breaking high-tech engineering facility delivering world-class instruments for the world’s biggest and most ambitious telescopes on land and in space.

Dr Hermine Schnetler says of the work experience opportunity at UK ATC:

“The work experience programme at the UK ATC was developed to give students an opportunity to experience a day in the life of an engineer, covering most of the engineering disciplines that participate in building astronomical instrumentation. In addition, the students also spend a day working with an astronomer to get a taste of what they will be doing if they choose that career path.

“With the advancement in science and technology, working in a team is of the utmost importance and the work experience programme has been designed to allow the students to work together as a team to achieve a goal such as building an instrument to detect exoplanets.

“I am passionate in nurturing and inspiring young people, I just love seeing how much these young bright engineers, and astronomers of the future develop during their week at the UK ATC.

“I wish Louisa every success in the continuation of her studies and in her future career.”

Last updated: 07 July 2020

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