We’re joining the global community this weekend to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. As part of our efforts to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and space enthusiasts, we introduce three young professionals working with us. Here’s a glimpse of the projects they’re working on, and keep an eye out for videos on ESA’s Instagram to see a day in their lives at ESA.
ESA celebrates the invaluable contributions made by women and girls in the fields of science and technology and this year, starting with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we are launching a series of stories by three young women engineers and scientists. In the first video, which will be released on ESA’s Instagram page, you will be able to live a day in the life of a space exploration engineer! Stay tuned by following ESA’s Instagram for other releases published in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, read more about their experiences and the projects they are working on in this article.
Carla Tamai, postgraduate intern in Analysis, Planning and Definition of Gateway Training Facilities
Carla is a space exploration engineer and works at the European Astronaut Center, where her role extends to the heart of astronaut training. Her main focus lies in defining the future concept of astronaut training for the next lunar missions. It is dedicated to the development of the mock-up and simulator of the International Habitation Module (I-Hab), the ESPRIT Refueling Module (ERM) and the HALO Lunar Communication System (HLCS) – which are the three largest European contributions to the future space station orbiting the Moon, the Lunar Gateway. When in the mission control room, she assists with training sessions taking place on the Columbus model with astronauts from around the world as they prepare for missions on the International Space Station.
“I would like to travel to contractors and companies working on the Lunar Gateway, witnessing the live construction of the station. This would give me inspiring ideas for the model and a deeper understanding of the simulator,” said Carla.
Before joining ESA as a YGT, Carla began her professional journey as a thermal engineer at the Royal Dutch Aerospace Center (NLR). She later worked as a human factors engineering intern in the ESA Space Medicine Team. In Madrid, she supported a team of scientists in laboratory experiments at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). In addition to her passion for space, she loves diving into books, building epic LEGO buildings, traveling around the world, and cooking dishes using her grandmother’s timeless recipes.
Aurelie Hand, Postgraduate Intern in Materials Environment Survivability for CubeSats and Nanosats
Aurelie is a materials engineer and works in the Materials Physics and Chemistry Section. Its main responsibility is to ensure the resilience of materials intended for space applications against the harsh conditions of outer space, including extreme temperatures, radiation and atomic erosion of oxygen. To carry out these experiments, Aurelie uses the exclusive facilities of ESTEC laboratories, equipped with more than 20 dedicated experimental installations and hundreds of instruments. Here, it can simulate the harmful factors of the space environment and evaluate how they affect materials for research projects that can fly on CubeSat missions.
Aurelie is also currently involved in an open lab testing campaign for new and commercial CubeSat materials. This initiative allows universities and small businesses in ESA Member States to assess their materials for space compatibility, bypassing expensive and time-consuming qualification processes. Results are shared publicly, benefiting the wider European CubeSat community.
The best part of her job? Aurelie said: “What I love most about my job is carrying out experiments in the ESA laboratories. We have unique and complex facilities, so even in my second year of YGT, I am learning every day! Our laboratory has a diverse team with people of different nationalities, ages and backgrounds, which provides a great learning experience. I feel lucky to work with real space hardware, playing samples that have been in space or will fly one day.”
After completing her studies in materials engineering in France, Aurelie entered the space sector through an internship at Spaceship EAC, where she focused on 3D printing lunar regolith. “It was an incredible first experience. When I found out about the YGT position at ESTEC, I applied immediately, eager to continue my adventure at ESA.”
Alessia Garofalo, Artificial Intelligence Graduate Intern
Alessia is an astrophysicist based at ESRIN, where she is part of the Artificial Intelligence team in the End User Services Division. Within this role, she extensively researched the application of artificial intelligence tools at ESA. Currently, Alessia is actively involved in testing and refining AI tools to ensure their efficient use; The goal is to increase creativity, optimize time and quality of work, and increase employee productivity through the implementation of these digital tools.
What does she love most about her job? “I love the work I do; it makes me feel intimately connected to the future of science, data and engineering. Since my university years, where the lack of women in these fields was already noticeable, it has always been important for me to raise awareness about the theme and show that everyone, regardless of gender, can do the same things based on their passions and knowledge,” said Alessia.
With a background in physics and astrophysics, Alessia wrote her thesis on machine learning, merging astrophysics and data science; Ultimately, her diverse skills led her to apply for a job in artificial intelligence at ESA. She also plays an integral role in the Young ESA community, serving as one of two local ESRIN representatives and overseeing the coordination of local activities such as events and networking activities.