MSc Planetary Sciences
Why did you choose this degree programme at the University of Aberdeen?
During my undergraduate study, I really struggled to find a topic area that piqued my interest and at times I thought that going on to further higher education was not for me. However, in my final year of my BSc Geography-Geoscience at the University of Aberdeen my course were the first to get a taster of planetary science. After this one class I knew I had found my niche subject and then to find out that I would be one of the first students to study planetary sciences at the university, I knew that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to study alongside the amazing planetary sciences team.
What skills, knowledge or experience did you gain or develop on this degree programme?
Throughout this degree, I gained invaluable experience both academically and personally. Academically, I saw a massive improvement in my research and communication skills, as well a mental shift when tackling brand new subject matter. The diversity of topics on this MSc course allows you to attack head on multiple areas of the space sector, from planetary formation, atmospheres and landforms, to data analysis and space instrumentation. This variety and interdisciplinary approach meant that even though I wasn't an engineer or a physicist, I was able to collect my own tailored tool-box of skills and techniques to apply in any industry, not only the rapidly expanding space sector.
The support from the planetary sciences team helped grow my confidence in tackling new areas of research with conviction and trust in my own knowledge. Most importantly, what I took away from this course is that I can venture into a completely alien subject and even if I don't know the answer, I now know how to find it.
During semester one of my MSc, as part of the Instrument Design and Data for Planetary Exploration course, I was privileged to join in with the MINAR field campaign from the 6th-9th Dec 2021 with my course mates and staff.
Did you take part in a work placement, internships, or other type of research or professional experience during your studies?
This campaign involved collaboration between scientists at the Boulby Underground Mine and planetary scientists from UoA in an active polyhalite mine. The MINAR campaign was an ideal scenario to test new scientific instrumentation and technologies and during my time there I was able to observe and gather data within a deep subsurface environment. After participating in the fascinating field campaign, it was evident that the study of this mine environment could be used as a possible Mars analogue for geological, geomorphological and astrobiological research. The opportunity to observe and engage in ground-breaking research, while in an environment that makes you feel like you are on another planet, is an experience like no other and opened my eyes to the many career paths available in the space sector.
Tell us about your career since graduating
Currently, I am a Group Environmental Data-Coordinator at Subsea7. This role, while not directly related to the space industry, has allowed me to improve my data handling and analytical skills, and also encourages me to 'think outside the box' while being involved in sustainable energy transition solutions and protecting the future of our environment, through the lens of the oil and gas industry. Interestingly, this role has opened my eyes to the similarities between subsea exploration and deep space exploration, with many lessons to be learned in both industries. I have observed that outer space and the deep ocean are antithetically linked – they are the bookends of a continuum of extreme environments and pressures that, without technology, humans cannot access. Both environments contain many mysteries and we are only just scratching the surface of what these environments have to offer.
It is without a doubt that the space sector is in an inspiring and unprecedented chapter with massive investment and collaboration between space agencies and private space companies, which is exciting for a newly graduated planetary scientists like me. I think the next five to ten years are going to bring a plethora of ambitious plans for space exploration and I am looking forward to the research and industry opportunities that may come from this.
What advice would you give another student who is considering applying to this programme?
Go for it! There is no better time to get a taste of what planetary sciences has to offer. Even if you don't choose a career path in the space sector, the skills and experience you will get out of this MSc course will help shape your career for the better.
Is there anything else about your time at the University of Aberdeen that you would like to share, that was not covered in the above questions?
Throughout my five years of study at the University of Aberdeen, I can say without hesitation that my final year working through the MSc Planetary Sciences was the most inspiring and invaluable experience that was fostered by the passion, motivation and unwavering support from the the University of Aberdeen's planetary sciences team.