Scottish Space SchoolChristopher Doyle

What made you decide to apply to the Space School?

When I was in first year of high school a senior pupil spoke at assembly about how he had gone to Houston as part of the Space School. His experience of visiting the Johnson Space Center and meeting astronauts and engineers at their place of work initially sparked my interest, as it was clear it was a unique opportunity which could potentially define a career path by demonstrating the opportunities available in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

I’d always had a keen interest in aviation and space, therefore to be provided with an opportunity to take part in a space based residential programme alongside other like-minded students and NASA engineers/astronauts could only help to further that interest. I had already been researching what university courses I wanted to apply for and Strathclyde was my first choice for Engineering, so the Space School seemed a great way to provide an invaluable first-hand experience of the university campus and facilities as well an opportunity to talk with current Strathclyde students.

What did you enjoy most about the residential week?

To be given the chance to meet and talk with experienced astronauts, which in 2010 were Nicholas Patrick and Bill McArthur, was a surreal experience. It was amazing how down to earth and approachable they were and willing to share unique stories of their time in orbit. NASA space suit engineer Heather Paul also attended and provided us with an incredibly inspirational presentation about her journey from a student to working for NASA and how she persevered after initial rejection. The opportunity to meet and listen to such amazing people who have worked extremely hard to get to the rare position they occupy has helped to inspire and motivate me to work as hard as I can to achieve my own career goals.   

What do you think you gained most from the experience?

There were so many opportunities to learn and meets lots of new, like-minded people. I found that the week provided a boost in my confidence and self-belief as the tasks during the week were challenging but by working effectively in a team we could overcome them.

Following the residential programme I was selected as part of a group of 12 to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston for 10 days, which has been one of the greatest adventures of my life to date. The fact that I was chosen to be part of the group to visit Houston was a massive achievement for me, as the standard of students who attend Space School is incredibly high, so I was very privileged to be able to represent such an amazing group of people.

Did it help you to make up your mind about what to study at University?

Before I attended Space School I was unsure between many degree disciplines such as Engineering, Medicine, Law and Dentistry. However, during the Space School week I was able to experience Engineering at Strathclyde first-hand and during the visit to Houston I was able to witness the incredible opportunities a degree in Engineering can provide. Following these experiences I realised that my passion was in Engineering and as a result I decided to study a masters degree in Aero-Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde, which I’m hoping to graduate from in 2016.

Did it change your perception of what engineering is?

From school it was difficult to understand what a career in engineering could offer as there is often a lack of promotion and provision of subjects/projects that demonstrate the type of tasks an engineer would perform, therefore a career in engineering can often be misunderstood. By attending Space School this was clarified a little bit more as we had the opportunity to talk with current Strathclyde Engineering Students about their work and could also take part in engineering tasks which encompassed a variety of engineering disciplines. By talking with NASA astronauts and engineers it was also easy to see that a degree in engineering could offer many exciting and varied opportunities to work on a vast amount of important projects; which could help make a difference in solving today’s engineering problems.

Have you remained involved with the SSS since joining Strathclyde?

I have worked as a student mentor four times during my time at Strathclyde. This has been an invaluable experience as not only was I able to experience Space School again but I was also able to develop skills for my own personal development such as communication and holding a position of responsibility as well as helping the current students to have as good a time as I had when I was in their position.

What advice would you give to other people who are thinking of applying to the Space School?

If you’re interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths subjects at school and are passionate about Space then don’t hesitate to apply as it really is a unique opportunity for your own personal development and to meet lots of other like-minded people.  Also if you apply try to be yourself and to make the most of the opportunities that you’re given and talk to as many people as you can.