Astrophysics masters student, The University of Edinburgh

And - Intern on the Lunar and Planetary Institute/NASA Intern Program in Texas

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It’s not always about how smart you are it’s about what you make of the skills that you do have.

Elisha Jhoti

What do you do?

I am an Integrated Masters student. My research currently involves using data from the planet-hunting telescope Kepler to better constrain the variations in light coming from stars, this will help us detect any planets orbiting those stars.

Why did you choose this field?

From a young age I have been interested in space and determined to pursue a career in human space exploration. I found it incredible that there were people whose whole lives are spent studying objects and processes millions of miles away that happen on scales larger than the human mind could even comprehend.

My parents did play a role in inspiring me; they are both scientists and very passionate about their industries, especially having my mother in STEM, I never even considered pursuing a scientific career was an uncommon thing for women (even though it really shouldn’t be).

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

My experiences this summer. I was an intern on the Lunar and Planetary Institute/NASA Intern Program in Texas. There were 15 of us chosen of 1500 applicants and I was one of 2 non-US citizens and the only UK citizen.

The experience was once in a lifetime. I got to use data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that is currently orbiting the Moon to look at cold spots and impact craters on the lunar surface to quantify space weathering. We went on tours at NASA Johnson Space Centre and saw the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility where the astronauts train on full-scale replicas of the International Space Station. We got to explore the inside of the Lunar Electric Rover and Space Exploration Vehicle - NASA’s prototypes for astronauts to drive around in for their upcoming manned Moon missions.

Why do you love working in STEM?

You can end up studying things no one has ever done before and push the boundaries of what we know and what we understand unlike any other field.

Best advice for next generation?

Being from the UK where there is no human space exploration program and being a woman in STEM both added to the challenge. Never give up on your goals, even when you fail, how you learn from that could be the most valuable learning opportunity. Never think that you won’t be good enough or let anyone make you think that.

In school I was told I was not good enough at Maths to study Physics at university. Instead of giving up on my dreams and letting other people dictate my future I studied to get into a physics program, and then took every opportunity I could. It’s not always about how smart you are it’s about what you make of the skills that you do have and how you can use them to create a path for yourself to achieve your goals. No matter where you start from, with enough determination anyone can get to where they want to be.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"When the odds are continually stacked against you, to have the determination to keep pursuing your ambitions motivates you to bring something new to the table."

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