Week one done, that was brilliant!
Satellite orbit designer for Galileo @Deimos Space, Dark Matter researcher for MAGIC telescopes @UCM, Digital forensics technician @Ondata International, Carbon Dioxide modeller @CirtaLab
Earth Observation Scientist
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Crazy Physics lady working in Earth Observation
Hi there! I’m Silvia, a 34 year old Physicist from Spain.
I live in Plymouth with my partner. I moved here four years ago, before that I’ve lived in Madrid and London. Sometimes I miss the busy life of the big cities, but I had always wanted to live by the sea so I love it here!
I spend most of my spare time making and trying new things, some my latest projects involve hedge-laying, cheese-making and playing the ukulele. Sometimes my crazy plans go well (tasty cheese!), sometimes I end up covered in glue, but I always learn something and have tons of fun on the way.
I skate, practice Body Combat, and I’m training for the Plymouth half marathon. I’m an utter bookworm: I read around one book a week and my to-read pile never stops growing. I’m outdoorsy and I have a green thumb: I lead my company’s ‘Grow Wild’ group and I’m a volunteer for Plymouth Environmental Action.
I study the ocean using pictures taken by satellites
I’m part of the Remote Sensing group at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Remote Sensing is the study of things from a distance, in my case I study the ocean from a huge distance: I use satellites that travel around the Earth at a height of 700 kilometres over the sea. The satellites carry special cameras (we call them “sensors”) that can see the light and the heat that comes out of the Earth’s surface. Here is an image of the UK taken by a sensor called MODIS and received by my co-workers in Dundee:
My job is to design and write the algorithms (the “rules”) that translate what the satellite sees to information that is useful for people, like temperature or waves. Here is an example of the results of our hard work: the image above transformed into a map of the chlorophyll floating in the sea around the UK.
My Typical Day
Constant vigilance, satellites never sleep
I like to arrive to the lab early (around 8 AM) so I can plan my day before anyone else arrives. I spend 50% of my time in front of my double screens. Here they are:
Things that I do on a typical day:
Meet with people to discuss new ideas and check how our common projects are progressing.
Read and write scientific papers.
Write computer programs to process and analyse satellite data.
Produce physical maps of the ocean and advise people how to use them in their research.
What I'd do with the money
Give everyone a chance to try Remote Sensing!
Remote Sensing is brilliant. It gives us the chance to study dangerous and remote places, like the eye of a hurricane or an active volcano. But most people think it’s too complicated, expensive, or just for scientists. They don’t imagine that they can do remote sensing too!
I want to build a simple, economic remote sensing system using a drone and a smartphone. Something that my neighbors can easily use to monitor their crops. Something that you guys can easily build at school.
I’d document the process on a blog so anyone would be able to get involved in the design. I’d make all the tools and code open source and available online.
I’d like to invite local schools and technology groups on a campaign to map the Plymouth Sound, if we time it well we could even compare our map to the satellite images obtained at the same time. And finally I’d like to share the project at national events like Maker Faire and The Big Bang Fair, so more people can be inspired by it!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, passionate, idealist.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Smashing Pumpkins.
What's your favourite food?
I love Japanese food, especially sushi.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Taking sailing classes – hiking at full speed with a tailwind is the closest I’ve been to flying!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was a very curious kid so I used to wander off during school visits, I’m afraid I gave my teachers a good scare a couple of times. Apart from that I was a goody-goody.
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Using satellite data, I’ve predicted where a group of basking sharks were going to be looking for food, so scientists could follow them on a ship and study them.
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
I’d be an environmental activist working for Greenpeace.
Tell us a joke.
What would you get if you crossed a dog and a calculator? A friend you can count on.