Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science at the University of Leicester.
What does your job involve?
My personal research centres on developing and using space-based UV/optical instrumentation for astronomy. I also have an administrative role across all physical sciences in the University.
What interested you in working in the space sector?
I grew up in the era of the Apollo programme and the excitement of that time propelled me to work in space research.
What do you do in a typical day?
Some of my work is programmatic, thinking about future space missions and perhaps writing a proposal for a new instrument. I may have to attend a project meeting for a current mission. I often also spend time analysing data from space missions such as Hubble working towards writing up and publishing the results of my work.
Are there any other interesting aspects to your work?
There is an opportunity for international travel around the world. I have worked with many space agencies and visited the USA, Canada, Russia, China and many European countries as part of collaborations or to attend meetings and conferences. I really enjoy working with other scientists across the world and learning about their cultures and different approaches to science research.
What is it about your job that fascinates or inspires you?
This is a job that pushes on technical and intellectual frontiers all the time. We really do explore things so far unexplored. I get a kick out of finding out new things and increasing our understanding of the Universe.
Why is what you do important?
Furthering our understanding is part of our culture and basic knowledge about some of the fundamental questions, such as “are we alone in the Universe” could be answered in the next decade. Virtually the whole human race wants to know the answer to that. In addition, the development of technology and training of skilled people through my research has significant economic benefits.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in space?
Decide what really interests you. If you want to work on the tools and the means of getting into space an engineering route would be the most appropriate. If you are interested in the fundamental science questions, do a physics-related degree. You should probably also plan on working toward a PhD.