2024 ESA Observes Women and Girls in Science Day

We’re joining the global community this weekend in celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. As part of our efforts to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and space enthusiasts, we’re featuring three young professionals working with us. Here’s a glimpse into the projects they’re working on, and stay tuned for their videos on ESA’s Instagram for a peek into a day in their lives at ESA.

ESA celebrates the invaluable contributions made by women and girls in the fields of science and technology, and this year, starting on International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we’re launching a series of stories about three young engineers and scientists. In the first video, which will be released on the ESA’s Instagram page, you’ll be able to step into a day in the life of a space exploration engineer! Stay tuned by following ESA’s Instagram for the other releases published in the coming weeks. In the meantime, read more about their backgrounds and the projects they are working on in this article.

Carla Tamai: Exploring the Future of Lunar Missions

Carla Tamai, a graduate trainee in Gateway Training Analysis, Planning and Facilities Definition, is a space exploration engineer based at the European Astronaut Centre. Her primary focus lies in defining the future concept of astronaut training for upcoming lunar missions. She is dedicated to the development of the mock-up and the simulator for the International Habitation Module (I-Hab), the ESPRIT Refuelling Module (ERM), and the HALO Lunar Communication System (HLCS) – which are the three biggest European contributions to the future space station orbiting the Moon, the lunar Gateway.

Carla’s role involves assisting in training sessions taking place in the Columbus mock-up with astronauts from around the world as they prepare for missions on the International Space Station. Her dream is to travel to contractors and companies working on the lunar Gateway, witnessing the live construction of the station. This would give her inspirational ideas for the mock-up and a deeper understanding of the simulator.

Before joining ESA, Carla started her professional journey as a thermal engineer at the Netherlands Royal Aerospace Centre (NLR). She also worked as a human factors engineer intern within the Space Medicine Team at ESA and supported a team of scientists in laboratory experiments at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Beyond her passion for space, Carla enjoys diving into books, building epic LEGO constructions, traveling around the globe, and cooking dishes using her grandma’s timeless recipes.

Aurelie Hand: Ensuring Materials Survivability in Space

Aurelie Hand, a graduate trainee in Materials Environment Survivability for CubeSats and Nanosats, is a materials engineer working in the Materials Physics and Chemistry Section. Her main responsibility is to guarantee the resilience of materials intended for space applications against the harsh conditions of outer space, including extreme temperatures, radiation, and atomic oxygen erosion.

To carry out these experiments, Aurelie uses the unique facilities of the ESTEC laboratories, equipped with more than 20 dedicated experimental facilities and hundreds of instruments. Here, she can simulate the detrimental factors of the space environment and assess how these affect materials for research projects that may fly on CubeSat missions.

Aurelie is also currently involved in an open lab testing campaign for novel and commercial-off-the-shelf CubeSat materials. This initiative allows universities and small companies across ESA Member States to assess their materials for space compatibility, bypassing costly and lengthy qualification processes. The results are publicly shared, benefiting the broader European CubeSat community.

Aurelie finds the realization of experiments in ESA’s laboratories to be the best part of her job. She feels lucky to work with actual space hardware and touch samples that have been in space or will fly one day. After completing her studies in material engineering in France, Aurelie stepped into the space sector through an internship at Spaceship EAC, where she focused on 3D printing of lunar regolith. Her passion for the field led her to apply for a job at ESA.

Alessia Garofalo: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in Space

Alessia Garofalo, a graduate trainee in artificial intelligence, is an astrophysicist based at ESRIN. She is part of the Artificial Intelligence team in the End-User Services Division and has extensively researched the application of artificial intelligence tools within ESA. Currently, Alessia is actively involved in testing and refining AI tools to enhance creativity, optimize time and work quality, and increase employee productivity.

Alessia’s background in physics and astrophysics led her to write her thesis on machine learning, merging astrophysics and data science. Her diverse skills ultimately led her to apply for a job in artificial intelligence at ESA. She feels closely connected to the future of science, data, and engineering through her work and believes in raising awareness about the importance of gender equality in these fields.

Apart from her role at ESA, Alessia plays an integral role in the Young ESA community, serving as one of the two site representatives for ESRIN. She oversees the coordination of local activities such as networking events and activities.

These three young professionals exemplify the incredible work being done by women in science and technology at ESA. Their dedication, expertise, and contribution to their respective fields are truly inspiring. By sharing their stories, we hope to encourage more young women to pursue careers in science and technology and break barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Stay tuned for their video releases on ESA’s Instagram page to get an up-close look at their work and lives at ESA. Let’s celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science by recognizing and honoring the remarkable achievements of women in STEM fields. Together, we can inspire future generations to reach for the stars.