Shooting for the moon
Aerospace Engineering PhD student
Emily Shepherdson left a lucrative management career to pursue a passion that was sparked in childhood – space exploration. The recipient of the 2018 Amelia Earhart Fellowship is researching technologies that will enable robots to operate in space without human involvement.
Why is your research important?
As we are looking to send humans back to the moon and eventually Mars, there is a need to develop technologies so that spacecraft can go and assemble themselves. By autonomously building additional space stations, we can expand our presence beyond Earth’s orbit and significantly reduce risk to human life.
How have your thesis supervisors supported your research?
Dr. Anton de Ruiter and Dr. Guangjun Liu have been extremely supportive. They let me take control of my research and apply my creativity to it, which I’m very fortunate for. Also, they encourage me to take advantage of opportunities that may advance my career.
What advice do you have for grad students?
Make sure you’re researching something you’re passionate about because it’s what keeps you going through the ups and downs. Try not to reinvent the wheel as you go, and be open to exploring new areas that you didn’t know existed.
How has your experience been as a woman in STEM?
I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors but we still have a long way to go in terms of equity and diversity. We need more female engineers because we need different perspectives. By having more women as role models, I hope young girls will realize that the world of STEM is an exciting place to be with endless opportunities.
Photo: Ian Patterson