Sharing the charm of science: Meet Sezsy Yusuf

Sezsy Yusuf is a PhD researcher in School of Aerospace, Transport, and Manufacturing, Cranfield University. She moves to Cranfield, UK  with her family  to start her PhD in September 2015, with the funding from the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education. Her project is on system identification for the scaled vehicle in which she builds a small scale model of an aircraft, puts it inside a wind tunnel, turns on wind, measures the movement, and postulates a mathematical model based on the measurement.

Well, that sums up her talk on the Soapbox Science: “Wind tunnel testing before the flight – how to put an elephant inside a fridge”.

You can catch Sezsy on a soapbox as part of Soapbox Science Milton Keynes on 30th June.

Follow Sezsy on Twitter: @sezsy


SS: How did you get to your current position?

SY: After graduated from Aerospace Engineering in Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Indonesia, I joined the Indonesian Aerospace company. I was involved in several projects related to aircraft modification and development. Having worked there for several years, I wanted to know more. For example, I always wondered why dynamic wind tunnel testing is not a common practice in the industry? Also, I realised that there was a gap in knowledge between my country and some other parts of the world. At the same time, the Indonesian government were promoting post-graduate scholarship through their Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP). I thought it was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about aerospace technology on the other side of the world, and then bring innovation back to my country. Since my work is related to flight dynamics, I want to do more research in this field. So I started to look for a university that has active research in the flight dynamics area. The research area and their relations with the industry are two of my top reason to choose Cranfield University. So, here I am now.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

SY: It all started when I was four years old, my father showed me a rocket and told me that rocket is way faster than aircraft, plus it can take me outside the earth. I wanted to become a rocket scientist! I think it is exciting. This is the main reason I have a major in aerospace engineering.

I’m very thankful to my supervisor for my undergraduate thesis the late Prof. Said Jenie. He was impressive; he explained his work in a simple language that made us, as students, amazed and keen to learn more. He is my role model for an aerospace scientist. He is the one that inspired me to have a career in the aerospace field. He said ‘love your research and it will pay you back’.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

SY: My research is about postulating a model based on observation. I chose dynamic wind tunnel tests as a method to gain the observation data. This means, rather than experimenting with the real aircraft I’m using a scaled aircraft model. Experiments using a scaled model are not as expensive or as risky as using the full-scale aircraft. In addition dynamic wind tunnel tests allow us to trial an extreme manoeuvre that would be too dangerous to perform in the full scaled piloted aircraft.

These extreme manoeuvres are vital for the robustness of the postulated mathematical model. It is fascinating to understand more about the dynamic behaviour of the aircraft, especially in situations that is uncommon for a pilot to fly.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

SY: I love the concept of sharing the knowledge with the general public, especially with the young children. Soapbox is not only a perfect opportunity to share the charm of science to the young people, but also requires me to understand the core of my work, as I need to explain it in a fun and straightforward way. Furthermore, sometimes I wonder what geologists or biologists are doing, and I think many people have the same curiosity about science and scientists. But it was not easy to meet one and started asking about their work (especially in a shopping mall), so to bring scientists to the public is an excellent way to understand what they do.

Last but not least, working in a field that is dominated by men, I think this is a rare occasion to show that women can also be rocket scientists and through this encourage more women working in the aerospace sector.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day



SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

SY: Openness. I understand that the value of transparency, openness, and reproducibility is already appreciated in science, but in practice sometimes this is not the case. In my opinion, openness will allow more innovation.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

SY: Just do it! And let me copy what my lecturer once told me ‘love your research, and it will pay you back.’

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