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Cael Gallagher

PhD candidate

Science careers

Using data from a robot on Mars to teach geology through virtual reality in the outback… that’s all in a day’s work for QUT PhD candidate Cael Gallagher

Having studied psychology and technology in the Netherlands, Cael now finds herself immersed in the geology of the Australian outback.

“Every day is different, which is really fun,” the QUT PhD candidate says of her multidisciplinary role working with QUT’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Cael is helping to develop virtual reality (VR) solutions for geology research and education to enable researchers and students to learn and analyse data in environments that they can’t physically get to… like Mars.

Cael’s background in human-computer interaction – the study of how humans interface with the electronic world – inspired her interest in ‘serious games’: interactive tools for learning and training purposes.

Diverse data needs

From photographs and field notes to remotesensing, data is pivotal to the project. Cael says the challenge is collating it all in a way that makes sense. “Because we are not physically on Mars, we acquire data remotely via the Perseverance

Rover and that’s something we do on Earth a lot by using satellites and drone photogrammetry [taking measurements from photos]. Part of the project is making that data feel less remote and more tangible,” she explains.

Travelling to the outback regularly, Cael has discovered she loves fieldwork. “I have these opportunities to go into beautiful places around Australia and I come back invigorated with a whole new approach to tackling problems. I work with a really good team that collaborates to produce amazing results.”

The future looks super exciting for Cael, who loves the idea of being an expert in her field. “It would be cool to go to some of the really remote parts of the world, like Antarctica, and document them for virtual reality,” she says.

“So few people get to go to these unique places, so to do it for science and make it more accessible would be amazing.” – Danielle Lucas

Cael’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Psychology and Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, he Netherlands
  • Teaching assistant, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • Master of Philosophy (Human-Computer Interaction), QUT
  •  PhD candidate (Immersive Systems for Geology Education), QUT

This article was brought to you in partnership with QUT and was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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