Victoria Da Poian
What do you do?
I am an Aerospace Engineer working on planetary missions researching how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can be used in planetary missions to help scientists and engineers in their data analysis process (that can be sometimes limited during mission operations). I am also working on laboratory experiments on Titan atmosphere for the future Dragonfly mission. I want to develop tools using today's technologies for tomorrow space exploration missions.
Why did you choose this field?
Since I was a child, I have been interested in space exploration. I spent a majority of my childhood moving from place to place, from Mayotte Island to Reunion Island to Hungary and finally to France at the age of 14. Moving so much exposed me to many different cultures, and I brought an excitement for exploration to each new place I called home. My inquisition and curiosity have given rise to my passion for scientific research and have led me to pursue it as a career. After high school, I completed three years of preparatory classes in Toulouse to prepare myself for the national exams that would determine my options for engineering schools. During these three years, I developed discipline, learned to approach my work rigorously, and gained a strong grounding in scientific methodology. My sole goal was to enter the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE) Supaero engineering school, the top French engineering school for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. My curiosity and passion for the space field made me want to learn more and to discover the different opportunities of the Space sector (from launch operations to manned missions to planetary missions development). During one internship I discovered human factors and machine learning fields, and since then I am working on developing AI tools to support space exploration missions operations.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
There is no shame in saying that you don't know or you don't understand something, that's how you learn more!
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because there are so many questions to answer and so many more questions behind each of them. One thing I really enjoy is sharing with younger people. I have been focusing on expanding educational access for young people, particularly students from underprivileged backgrounds. I spearheaded educational and scientific outreach programs for engaging young students interested in science, and I have been helping young students in different fields by mentoring them in mathematics and physics, discussing potential career trajectories, and preparing them for oral exams. There is so much to explore in the space sector, so many people and kids to inspire !
Best advice for next generation?
There is no gender limitation if you follow your passions and are guided by your motivation. No one can tell you what you can and cannot do. And I would say, don't forget to share and help others along the way :)
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"You must always know the limits of the possible. Not to stop, but to try the impossible in the best conditions." Romain Gary