What is your current role?
The A-Levels (or equivalent) that you did?
I studied in the USA, so this may not be helpful, especially as I skipped my senior year of high school! I took physics, chemistry and calculus as a high school junior.
Why you chose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)?
MSE is a crucial part of spacecraft engineering. Measuring and understanding material performance under extreme conditions, whether that’s thermal and mechanical stress, or a harsh radiation environment, determines whether or not a spacecraft will survive its mission.
As the Product Assurance Manager for the JUICE spacecraft’s magnetometer instrument, one of my weightiest responsibilities was the Materials, Mechanical Parts, and Processes assessment (MMPP) for our instrument. This required a detailed examination, and sometimes testing, of the properties of every element of our instrument. It was time-consuming and fascinating.
What is your research about?
I’m interested in space-based dataset management and archiving, space payload instrument development, and inclusive STEMM teaching.
What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?
Driving the Cassini spacecraft around Saturn.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Building space hardware with my students.
What is your favourite material (and why)?
I’m a big fan of aluminium. Although the process of extracting it is expensive and not very pleasant, it is incredibly cost-effective to recycle. It’s also light, can easily be combined with other metals to produce space-worthy alloys, and is great at shielding sensitive electronics from radiation.
What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
Take those crazy-looking opportunities, you are going to have a lot of fun.
Links to any external profile pages / website you have: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/metallurgy-materials/people/profile.aspx?ReferenceId=184315&Name=dr-leah-nani-alconcel