How to launch your space career

Space career
Thomas Ireland - Software Engineer, Gilmour Space Technologies

Wanna reach for the stars? Get inspired by these three awesome – and diverse – pathways to launch your space career.

1. Thomas Ireland – Software Engineer, Gilmour Space Technologies

Growing up, Thomas Ireland was fascinated by how things worked. “I was always pulling toys apart,” he says. After high school he signed up for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at Griffith University, majoring in electrical and electronic engineering. As part of his degree, Thomas did work placement at Gilmour Space Technologies – an aerospace startup based on Queensland’s Gold Coast – which turned into a full-time gig. He’s now a software engineer and part of a team designing and building a rocket set to deploy commercial payloads by 2022.

Thomas loves his job and is working on some super-exciting space projects. “I never really imagined working in the space industry. I didn’t think there’d be companies so close to home,” he says.

Thomas’ study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) (Electrical & Electronic), Griffith University
  • Undergraduate Engineer, Gilmour Space Technologies
  • Software Engineer, Gilmour Space Technologies

RELATED: Quiz: What’s your perfect space career?

2. Paulo De Souza – Head of ICT, Griffith University

Space career - Paulo De SouzaCuriosity is the most important ingredient for a successful STEM career, says Griffith University’s Head of ICT, Paulo De Souza. 

Curiosity is also the name of one of the Mars rovers – spacecraft that have travelled on the Red Planet. During his PhD in Germany, Paulo worked on a sensor used by NASA aboard the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. He has now collaborated on NASA rover missions for 15 years. 

Paulo grew up in Brazil and went to small, remote schools in the Amazon. He signed up for a degree in electrical engineering but switched to physics because he wanted to learn about the fundamental nature of how things work.

Space projects continue to be part of Paulo’s day job at Griffith University, which has partnered with Gold Coast-based aerospace company Gilmour Space Technologies to design and build the largest-ever Australian-made satellite, due for launch in 2023. “There’s so much happening in Australia’s space sector right now, and there’ll be so much happening over the next 10 to 20 years,” Paulo says. “There are more opportunities than people available in Australia to take them up.”

Paulo’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil
  • PhD, Natural Sciences, Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany
  • Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO
  • Head of School (ICT), Griffith University

RELATED: Places to launch a lit space career in Australia and NZ

3. Jessie Christiansen – Research Scientist, NASA

Space career - Jessie ChristiansenAn amateur astronomer in high school, Jessie Christiansen had no idea her passion for stargazing would lead to a career at NASA. “I didn’t know you could get paid to do this job. As soon as I realised it was an actual career, I was really excited,” she says.

With a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Studies) from Griffith University under her belt, followed by a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics, Jessie has worked at NASA in the US for more than eight years. As a research scientist at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, she spends her days looking for planets around other stars. 

“I love discovery. I love being the first person to look at the data and go, there it is, there’s a new planet, or planet-like system or Earth-like planet,” she says. –Gemma Chilton

Jessie’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Science (Advanced Studies), Griffith University
  • PhD, Astronomy and Astrophysics, UNSW
  • Research Scientist, NASA

This post is brought to you in partnership with Griffith University. Check out their study pathway options here.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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