Christiane Heinicke

Researcher, ZARM, University of Bremen

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How could someone not choose an education in STEM?

What do you do?

My work is to develop a habitat prototype for human exploration of the Moon and Mars. It is an engineering challenge, because obviously the habitat needs to keep its inhabitants alive. But it is also an architectural and design challenge, as humans require not just enough pressure, fresh air, and fresh water, but we need a livable environment. Especially for Mars, where missions can last several years, it is important that human explorers can feel at home and enjoy their surroundings. The trip is hard enough by itself, so hopefully a habitat like ours can help relieve the stress!

Why did you choose this field?

At home, we had a little workshop in the basement and my Dad would often let me use his tools for whatever I needed them. When I chose to study Applied Physics, both my parents were proud. During my studies, I also took classes in geology and geophysics (I actually have a BSc in Applied Physics and an MSc in Geophysics) and generally tried to learn as much as possible about the things I found interesting. I also started working on research projects quite early during my studies, although initially my focus was in fluid mechanics, so I got my PhD in mechanical engineering. But then I had the chance to participate in a long-term study where the goal was to simulate life on Mars--and curious Me couldn't resist and had to try it out! Ever since I have been working on the question how you could actually live on Mars, from a practical, engineering perspective.

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

If could give advise to younger me, I would tell her to read more books on meaningful topics. I've always enjoyed reading, but my parents aren't very literate, so they could not guide me through the wonderful world of books and now I lack the time to read all the books I would like to.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working on the future of humankind. Generally, in engineering, you get to create things, to design and construct new things and test the limits of our knowledge. Also, I enjoy working with my colleagues, many of whom are as nerdy as I am... or even worse ;)

Best advice for next generation?

How could someone not choose an education in STEM? If you have even the slightest interest in numbers and physical processes--that's the way to go!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Paths are made by walking.” - Franz Kafka

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