Ashna Sudhakar

Space Weather Research Scholar, Providence Women's College

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STEM will provide you wings to fly high.

What do you do?

Iam a Space weather research scholar who just start to understand about the vast research area. Many phenomena associated with space weather occur within the Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. Geomagnetic storms can be accompanied by enhancements in the radiation belts and complex changes in the ionosphere and thermosphere. During geomagnetic storms, the increased density and energy of particles trapped in the radiation belts means a greater chance that an astronaut will be hit by a damaging particle. Damage to DNA within cell may lead to cancer. That’s why the International Space Station has increased shielding around crew quarters, and why NASA carefully monitors each astronaut’s radiation exposure throughout his or her career.
Most spacecraft in Earth orbit operate partly or entirely within the radiation belts. During periods of intense space weather, the density of particles within the belts increases, making it more likely that sensitive electronics will be hit by a charged particle.

Ions striking satellites can overwhelm sensors, damage solar cells, and degrade wiring and other equipment. When conditions get especially rough in the radiation belts, satellites often switch to a safe mode to protect their systems.

The research in Space weather related with the solar wind, Coronal Mass Ejection, Geomagnetic storm can help to improve the Space weather forecast and ensure the safety of satellite ,the radio communication system, and also the life of Astronauts.

Why did you choose this field?

Iam from India's one of remote village in Kerala state. Where Literacy rate is almost 100% . Still some girls got marry and settle down without pursuing their dream because of some family constrains. But my parents are my great motivators who are always encouraging me to pursue my dream to become a Space researcher. As a child, I would gaze dreamily at the night sky filled with twinkling stars and wonder about the innumerable phenomena going on in space. This is where the desire to unfold the mysteries of the universe shaped up. I was in school when I heard about Indian born American Astronaut Kalpana Chawla’s death in the Columbia Shuttle crash and her venture into space made me idolize her. Since then, I had wanted to work in the field of space research. Especially in the field of Space weather to ensure the safety of astronaut from Energetic Solar phenomenon like Coronal Mass Ejection and Solar wind. I had fallen in love with her infectious smile and influential personality so much that I’d carry her photograph all the time.
I had selected for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Visiting Research Scholarship. That was a great experience in my life during my PhD. After returning to my former University ,the same year I was compelled to stay away from research work because of motherhood and my
personal circumstances. I was struggled lot to balance a happy motherhood and the same time the sadness of being an unfulfilled dream in my deep heart. After two years, finally I have restarted my PhD because of the full support of my family and friends. . . And now Iam feeling full energy and inspiration. I gone through lot of depression of a person experience when one have an unfulfilled true dream in their heart. But I realised how much important is my dream that didn't made me sleep properly for the last two years. I would like to work for space weather research, I hope it will heal my sadness about the thought of the death of Kalpana Chawla and her unfulfilled dream. Further I would like to raise my voice against the gender discrimination one women experience in her workplace. Whatever either because of motherhood, or because of any family circumstances she shouldn't be a person who cut the wings of her dream . I would like to inspire and encourage the younger generation especially girls who have a strong dream . "If you have a strong dream, Nothing can't stop you. Rise against all the odds in your life. Reach for stars. "

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I didn't have such a thought. As I am always enthusiastic in my life, It's really interesting to know about some opportunity ourself through reading, or through by talking to any experienced scientists, or through information from any friends who achieved . Thus I didn't missed any opportunity in my life. Iam always aware about each opportunity that can make a huge impact in my life. Because in life, age is just a number. Younger or older doesn't have any priority when one have a passionate mind.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love science. Because it have a continuity, motivation, and encourage to reach to a result that give a proper answers to so many unknown questions.
Each day I wake up looking forward to read, learn something in my research work, new, something that can make a positive change in my thoughts to move ahead to fulfill my dream.

Best advice for next generation?

You may be a daughter, grand daughter, sister, wife, Mom, sister in law etc in your family life.
But you should be the same time the ultimate boss of your accademic career.
STEM will provide you wings to fly high. Never cut your wings because of thoughts you have to take care family. Be an enthusiastic in the field of STEM, it will take you to a brand new you. A new person with strong passion and bold personality .

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it. Wishing you a great journey."
Kalpana Chawla

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