Bristol Cathedral School (1996 to 2003), University of Birmingham (2003 to 2007)
Masters in Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Bag packer at Sainsbury’s, general office and restaurant chimp at Bristol Zoo, draughtsman at a conveyor belt company in Bristol and work experience at a company that built transmission systems for high performance cars in Leamington Spa
Electronics design engineer for Space Electronics
STFC RAL Space
I build experiments and cameras to send into Space!
I’m lucky enough to work as an electronics design engineer for STFC RAL Space in Oxfordshire, where we have built over 200 scientific instruments that are either whizzing around in orbit above our heads or looking out into Space from Earth.
Who knew that kind of work really happens right here in the UK?
During my eight years at RAL Space I have worked on several cameras which look at our Sun in wavelengths far beyond those that the eye can see, and are behind most of the beautiful close-up images of solar storms that we see in the media today.
Solar prominences captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory camera electronics, built here in the UK
My most recent project was to design, build, test and support operations of the electronics for two high-definition Earth Observation cameras which are now mounted outside the International Space Station, and will be sharing Tim’s view of our planet while he is aboard.
Our High Resolution Camera in the clean rooms at RAL
Our High Resolution Camera mounted aboard the International Space Station
London as viewed by our High Resolution Camera (and soon…our very own astronaut Tim Peake).
The Earth looks very fragile from up here.
Spot the London Eye!
My Typical Day
It really depends on the day! No two are the same…
One of the great things about working on a Space project is that you get to see it through from start to finish. One day I may be talking to scientists at NASA to find out what they requirements are for their mission, on another I may be seeing my work on top of a rocket ready for launch, or watching it being installed on a Spacewalk!
Watching the launch of two years’ hard graft on a giant firework. Can you imagine how that feels?
In between, I spend my time working on a broad range of tasks either at my desk (designing and analysing electronic systems or writing documents) in the clean rooms (building, testing and qualifying my work for the harsh environments of Space), or working with the customer (wherever they may be)!
One thing is for sure…no two days are the same!
What I'd do with the prize money
From “Rickety Rockets” to “Build Your Own Satellite”
You’d be surprised how little £500 buys on a Space project, but for school engagement projects it would be great!
At RAL Space, we run a variety of activities for schools ranging from building spaghetti and marshmallow rockets (which we then test to see if they’ll survive launch) to project managing the build of an infra-red satellite to map the extremes of the known universe. We also like launching rockets, and would love to send a smartphone on one of these (or possibly on a weather balloon) with a range of sensors, cameras, GPS, accelerometers etc. But we could really do with some help, which is where you guys come in!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
(Straddling the) “thin dividing line”…
What was your favourite subject at school?
Design and Technology (Electronics). I’m pretty sure our teacher was only contracted to fix the plumbing, but stayed on to teach “One Volt, One Amp, One Ohm” (in a very Northern accent).
What did you want to be after you left school?
A penguin keeper. That plan failed…
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, most memorably for “incessant misbehaviour” in History. I made a point to keep asking what “incessant” meant, which got my detention a free upgrade.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Kayaking under waterfalls during a perfect sunset in New Zealand (lthough the flying fish kept jumping into our kayak after dark…you’d be surprised how gross that feels)
The RAL site in Oxfordshire.
As well as the RAL Space building (on the right), you can see the Diamond Light Synchrotron (big metal doughnut), the ISIS proton/neutron source (blue buildings), the Vulcan world’s most intense focussed laser source (dark grey) and data processing clusters for CERN (on the left).
Come and have a look around!
Calibrating cameras at RAL Space
Simulating the extremes of launch, temperature, electromagnetic interference and radiation in Space at RAL Space’s test facilities
Launch of our cameras at Baikonur Cosmodrone (Kazakhstan)
Unloading the cameras aboard the International Space Station, prior to their installation on a “SpaceWalk”!
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