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ArianeGroup Booster Award winner Franziska and her mentor Martin talk to us about their experience of this program of developing the talents of the future
Franziska Hild is a young woman who knows what she wants – to improve the use of space by developing and applying new technologies to satellites. With talent and tenacity, she has got her foot securely on her chosen path. She is currently studying for a doctoral degree at the Institute of Space Systems (IRS) in the University of Stuttgart in Germany, notably contributing to development of a code for simulations of satellites in orbit and re-entry capsules at different atmospheric altitudes.
Martin Konopka – Specialist in fluid mechanics @ArianeGroup
ArianeGroup’s Martin Konopka is a specialist in fluid mechanics, whose career encompasses detailed related analysis and development work and more general system engineering analytical software development. In addition, he is a team leader for future technologies in the pre-development department at ArianeGroup in Bremen, Germany.
They were brought together through the ArianeGroup Booster Award, a scheme involving academia and industry to support promising female students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines by providing a mentoring program with an expert in their field of research.
Franziska and Martin both inhabit in the same field of science: aerodynamic flow at very high altitudes in the Earth’s atmosphere which impacts satellites in low orbits and objects re-entering from space. And since they were both using the same software system for predicting flow pattern behavior (a “numerical flow solver”) – developed at IRS by students supported by ArianeGroup’s doctoral program – the scientific match was clear.
Here’s what they have to say about their experience.
How did you make contact?
F : I was one of the two winners of the ArianeGroup Booster Award in 2021.
M : I had the privilege of being Franziska’s mentor under the ArianeGroup Booster Award scheme.
How does the mentoring system work within ArianeGroup?
F : I can say that the mentoring process is completely adapted to the needs and the interests of the mentee. I was able to ask my mentor Martin all sorts of questions on all kinds of topics and discuss different perspectives and approaches with him. For example, we looked at specific thematic areas raised by my master’s thesis and inroads into my doctoral project, but also best practices for working in a project team, and the importance of work-life balance.
M : The initial goal of the ArianeGroup Booster Award was to provide specific mentoring support for Franziska’s master’s thesis. However, when the mentoring started Franziska had already started her doctoral program so we quickly extended the scope to include general discussions about working in the space industry and leadership topics where I could share my experience from being part of ArianeGroup.
How does this help to introduce a young person to the realities of working in the space industry?
F : Conversations with Martin, and also with other ArianeGroup staff members, helped me to develop new perspectives on my project and my career path, as well as to find new research dynamics. For me personally, it was incredibly valuable to meet new people in the industry. I hope that this network will continue to help me in the future and that I will be able to continue to work in the field of space.
M : Because the mentoring occurred during the Covid period, we could only meet remotely by video, which we did once a month – but despite that it worked very well. I am delighted to say that that I was nevertheless able to arrange a personal meeting with Franziska later at our Bremen site, so I could show her the Ariane 5 launcher upper stage production facility and introduce her to other colleagues.
F : My personal highlight was definitely the trip to witness the launch of an Ariane 5 rocket launch in Kourou. It was fascinating to be able to visit the whole space center and to see with my own eyes the scale in which everything takes place there. The launch itself was an absolute breath-taking moment that I will definitely not forget in a hurry!
M : I looked forward to every mentoring session because Franziska had such a positive attitude and was so enthusiastic about her work, her future career, and always accumulating more knowledge about the space industry and ArianeGroup. I also took great pleasure from our exchanges since I could see that our work at ArianeGroup inspires young people and creates a population of possible future colleagues.
A final word to encourage young women in STEM?
F : The ArianeGroup Booster Award is a great way to meet new people, to build up a network and above all to get direction for projects. In addition, being present at the launch of an Ariane rocket is a highlight you will hardly ever get to experience otherwise! Therefore – apply and get a boost for your future!
M : Connecting university students with ArianeGroup employees – it’s a win–win situation.