Vibha Srivastava is currently a PhD student at The Open University, Milton Keynes. She is fascinated with space and has a strong interest to contribute towards a future where humanity will settle at other planetary bodies like Moon and Mars. Here she explains how her ambition to be an Astronaut brought her to the position of exploring and investigating 3D printing techniques for the construction of infrastructure for human settlement on Moon. Meet Vibha as she takes on to introduce her work one of our soapboxes in Milton Keynes, on the 9th of July
SS: Vibha, how did you get to your current position?
VS: I completed my Bachelor in Aeronautical Engineering from Gujarat University in India and then joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, an aviation company in India. I was in the Aircraft R&D centre as a Design Engineer in the Aerodynamics department. Getting into the space sector has always been my interest. But my ambition to be an astronaut did not die out even after getting well-settled job in India. I took a year of sabbatical leave and pursued MSc in Space Studies from International Space University in France. My Master’s individual project took me to explore the in-situ resources available on Mars and how they can be utilized to the benefit of human needs. I had a wonderful 3 month internship opportunity to work on a small project on in-situ resource utilization at NASA Ames research center in California and I during my also carried out the same project at Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah for two weeks as a Crew Scientist.
After such a thrilling experience, my urge to work further in the field of in-situ resource utilization made me look for a PhD position in this field. I came across the advertisement for a PhD opportunity at The Open University, applied for it and here I am.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
VS: Since a very young age I dreamt of being an astronaut. It was the shining bright stars in the dark night sky which inspired me to reach out to them and increased my curiosity to know more about them. As my father is an electrical engineer, I grew up in an environment where science and mathematics were given importance. My mother, a housewife always enhanced my thirst to study science related subjects. My ambition to pursue space studies was well supported by my parents and it strengthened my dream at every step.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
VS: The most fascinating aspect of my research is to know more about extra-terrestrial bodies in general and making infrastructure for human habitation on the Moon in particular. The excitement of finding out about extra-terrestrial bodies – which have been a mystery to human beings for many years – keeps me motivated. The most amazing thing is that my research can impact the future of our civilization.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
VS: The platform that it offers to connect to general public and to convey them what is going on in the field of Space exploration attracted me the most. Another important fact is the opportunity it provides to inspire the young minds by explaining to them how my research can impact our future. It also helps to show the tremendous potential of today’s women in every field of life including Space Exploration.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – Excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
VS: I would like to change the way how females are discouraged when they choose to go for higher education. Every higher education degree awarded to someone is a contribution to the future of science. All willing and deserving candidates must be encouraged irrespective of their gender.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
VS: I would suggest to them to pursue what they like to do and to believe in what they choose to do. It is not the gender that defines our capability but our dreams and our commitment to those dreams that define our capability. So see big dreams and strive towards their fulfilment. Go for it!