Young Space Scientists - Does the UK Offer a Future? A Personal Perspective. (the Physics of the Universe)

By Dunkin, Dr. Sarah | New Statesman (1996), May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Young Space Scientists - Does the UK Offer a Future? A Personal Perspective. (the Physics of the Universe)


Dunkin, Dr. Sarah, New Statesman (1996)


Our future success and leadership lies in the hands of the younger generation of scientists and engineers. One of the many strengths of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research council's commitment to space science is the training it gives to students. The quality of the training is reflected in the high proportion of funded PhD students who go on to be employed in space science, either in industry or in academic research. However, the question remains: "Does the UK now offer sufficient scope in space science careers to gain a proper return on this investment?"

As a subject, space is an extremely attractive option for students. It is at the very cutting edge of science research and technology development, and has enormous public appeal. Space science has always been a big attraction to me. As a child, I was fascinated by the craters on the moon, the stars, and imagining astronauts looking back at me from space. Space scientists explore the universe, and I wanted to be part of that exploration.

Exploring and understanding the universe, through wonderfulimages of planets and stars, fascinates people and can often be the strongest source of inspiration for schoolchildren to become scientists themselves. This alone is an important reason for the UK to remain a leader in space science. No other area of science appeals to so many, and is so frequently presented by the media in a way that everyone can understand. Consequently, there is a real responsibility on those of us working in space science to report our research to the public, who ultimately pay for it. There is an increasing demand for this communication, and young scientists and engineers in the field recognise the importance of this more than most.

Each year, a number of our scientists and engineers leave the UK to work abroad. Some of them never come back. The mobility of scientists and engineers between countries and organisations is healthy. The exercise is stimulating, making them more open-minded, exposing them to new working practices and enabling them to build up a range of professional contacts. …

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