Careers Advice

A Day in the Life...

Of a graduate scientist at Dstl


I’m fascinated by space, it’s the reason I studied astrophysics at University and why I couldn’t say no to a job offer to join the Space Systems team at Dstl. Now I work with a team of like-minded and highly talented individuals to exploit and monitor space for the UK’s defence, security and prosperity.  I’m motivated by working in a subject I am passionate about, with an ability to shape the future of the space industry.

Day to day

I like to turn up to work before 8 am to avoid the Portsmouth traffic – that’s one of the rewards of working for Dstl, flexible working hours. Once at my desk, I’ll check my notebook to recall what I was doing the day before and note down a rough plan for what I want to achieve that day, particularly any deadlines or meetings I need to prepare for.

I typically spend most of my working hours on Matlab, running various simulations. Right now I’m developing a model of a satellite attitude determination and control system using Kalman filtering (since you asked!).  It’s not always space related, I’ve also been quite involved with radar modelling. Dstl sent me to Germany for a week long crash course in radar not long after I started so that I could get involved in some really interesting (but classified!) work.

Depending on the project, there can be lots of travelling: both across the country and abroad, for training, conferences, or to meet with suppliers in industry. Some of the partners I’ve worked with include Surrey Satellites, Thales Alenia Space, and RAL Space. Or I’m on trials, running experiments out in the field – in the case of Asgard it was literally a field.

Asgard was a capability development opportunity for five Dstl graduates to work together and create our own research project. We had a chance to innovate and think creatively to solve a problem in the space domain. Asgard became a situational awareness device for satellites to sense their surroundings. The project was a real success. We built and tested our own radar designed to detect space debris and cue a camera to take pictures of it.


In my relatively short time at Dstl so far, I’m proud to have published papers on Athena, the MOD-wide collection of science and technology output. I can influence the design and purpose of future UK satellites to be launched and I have the ability to generate and pursue my own ideas on work time.


Heidi Thiemann

Heidi is a PhD student studying variable stars using SuperWASP at the Open University.

Something Wrong?

Are we missing something or spouting nonsense? Let us know!

This site is a work in progress and we're always looking to improve it.

You can get in touch with us on our contact us page.