My name is Hannah Currivan, I am a Space Systems Engineer working for Réaltra Space Systems Engineering, which is a Irish Space Industry Company. I am working on the PLIU (Payload Interface Unit) test breadboards for the European Space Agency PLATO mission, which is a M3 Cosmic Vision Mission. I am responsible for the reliability modelling of the PLIU payload test breadboard before its space standard breadboard is produced for the PLIU payload which will work for the duration of the mission.
Not a surprise but I am interested in space in my spare time but I also like to work on Raspberrry Pi projects (Not the pie version that you eat, but I do make a good raspberry pie), I also enjoy cycling and attending the gym, and travelling the world, and visiting historic space sites. When I was in secondary school, I was a senior prefect (head girl), I was also a member of a Meitheal Team, which is a team of 5th year students that helped first year students to settle into secondary school. I was also a member of the Law team where we would take part at national levels mock trial competitions in Ireland and international levels in New York. All the skills I learned from secondary school from being a good leader, being confident, and trusting your ability to carry out your work to a high standard, has helped me throughout my career.
1. Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?
No it has not. I wanted to be a physicist since around the age of 11-12 years old, I was always jealous of the physicist I saw on TV because I wanted to be them. 😊 My parents always gave me science books when I was younger and I would also watch BBC Megamaths which was a children’s show in the nineties about multiplication and division, and relating it to objects in the world around you. I also watched loads of history and science documentaries growing up and still do, as it is what sparked my interest really early on. I always sat down to watch a shuttle launch, and I have been watching SpaceX since its founding, looking at all there failures and successes, and their amazing livestreams. In school I really enjoyed science and maths for the junior cert and for my leaving certificate subjects I studied physics, chemistry, and applied mathematics.
2. In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
That it is really hard. Not to lie, every degree is hard to get as nothing is ever handed to you. You will always need to work hard to get to where you want to go, and physics and the STEM field in general require long hours at university to become a good scientist, but I believe if you have the passion you will work as hard as you need to, to become what you want to be.
3. Describe an interesting day in your current position.
The day does vary from meetings with Réaltra team members, Ariane Group, and the European Space Agency and OHB, to making inbuilt interfaces for Réaltra, and building reliability models.
4. What do you love about your current role?
I love the responsibility I have been given, because I get the opportunity to learn new skills. I also get to network within the space industry, and also help move the Irish space industry forward.
5. What has been your most exciting career moment to date?
Receiving training with the European Space Agency in Spacecraft Operations in Belgium at ESA ESEC, where we even planned our own mission. Also working in the Irish space industry is very exciting. I also enjoy running my space industry blog as I get to speak to people that are making huge changes in the space industry today, such as head of innovation and research at space florida and a spacecraft operator from inmarsat.
6. Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
I have gotten to travel to Oxford University Keble College for a conference for “Undergraduate Women in Physics”, where I got to see the “JET”(Joint European Torus) experiment at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire. I also got an opportunity to receive training at the European Space Agency in Spacecraft Operations.
7. What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
I work with project managers, test engineers, and consultant engineers. Funny thing is that most of the engineers in Réaltra Space Systems Engineering are physicists like myself!!!!
8. What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
I hope to continue working on the PLATO PLIU payload, and talk more to the public in relation to Ireland’s space industry, and to continue my blog, and help Ireland get more space contracts.
9. If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
What I would say to them is to start learning “CODE”, the code being “scratch ”, “python”, “C”, “R”, “java” even get your first computer being a Raspberry Pi Zero W, or a Raspberry Pi 4, and learn how to code and make applications for your own computer. In terms of school I would say to work hard, if you need help understanding a topic ask your teacher and have a look for a tutorial on youtube, as people make great videos for all sciences and maths topics. You can also join your local CoderDojo and be part of big projects that you can then present at fairs such as “Coolest Projects”; you can also make a project for the BT Young Scientist, and for the ESB Science Blast. Even in school create your own STEM club.
10. Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?
I have taken part in multiple internships over the course of my undergraduate degree, which have all contributed to what I do now. I was a research assistant looking at physics education and a particle physics undergraduate experiment called midipix at Technological University of Dublin. I was a summer intern at the University of Glasgow with the department of experimental particle physics where I worked on the project for “Characterisation of high-speed readout for the VELO upgrade”, as the LHCb Experiment will go through a major upgrade in 2018-2019 replacing most of its detectors and completely changing the trigger and data acquisition system. This upgrade will allow the experiment to operate at higher luminosity and to select the signal candidates more efficiently. My project was to make a device to test the newly designed data tapes, so I made a rail on which the upgraded data tapes were tested on to see if the bending of the tapes over a number of times would cause diffractions and error in the data. Then I carried out an internship in the area of plasma physics at the Technological University of Dublin looking at ways of sterilising food and medical appliances using our understanding of Plasma Physics; which is where we examined different types of gases that could be used and at what temperatures and Intensity the plasma should be used when treating samples. Then in the summer of 2017 I was part of the construction team for Ireland’s first radio telescope “I-LOFAR”, Ireland Low Frequency Array, prior to being on the building team I was working on Solar Flare data from Poland’s LOFAR Station at Trinity College Dublin. Then I started to work in the Irish space industry “InnaLabs” working on there gyroscopes, as an engineering intern.
11. Name one thing on your bucket list.
Starting my own space company is definitely a thing on my bucket list. Getting to contribute to the next voyage in human history, to be part of the next columbus mission to the new world (the universe) is definitely a dream!!!!
12. What television series are you currently watching?
Myself and my boyfriend are currently watching The orville on Netflix. The orville is like a star trek comedy, its great.