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Reach for the stars

Last week, Chipping Campden School welcomed Dr Suzie Imber, winner of the BBC’s “Astronauts - do you have what it takes?” to give the sixth Annual Ogden Trust Public lecture. The audience of over 300 people aged eight to 80 were enthralled and inspired by Suzie’s talk which covered her work on BepiColombo, a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to the planet Mercury, and her experiences on the BBC Astronauts series.

Suzie also visited four local primary schools where she led assemblies and ran ‘Astronaut Training’ workshops for the KS2 pupils where they attempted several of the challenges that Suzie and the other competitors had faced on the BBC programme. Some pupils had the extra treat of seeing a 3D solar system show in Leicester’s new inflatable planetarium. Welford-on-Avon Primary School was particularly proud to be presented with their ESERO Silver Space Education Quality Mark Award by Suzie. The Award comes as a result of their excellent use of space as a context for teaching and learning, and their involvement in the Chipping Campden Partnership’s Space Celebration Year.

"The public lecture was great – Dr Suzie is now my new hero, as she is for the children who went to see her.”

The A-level physics students at Chipping Campden School were inspired by their workshop on Mercury and the BepiColumbo mission and they enjoyed the opportunity to discuss Suzie’s research with her in the Phiz Lab. They rose to the challenge and became very competitive in the astronaut selection activities. Two of Chipping Campden's A-level physics students from last year are in the first year of their physics degree course at Leicester University and Suzie is their lecturer – a great incentive for current students to aim high!

“We just wanted to say how much we had enjoyed the talk from Dr Suzie Imber. What a fascinating and energetic lady she is. Highly motivated and a super role model to any of your students”
Year 7 parent

Suzie is a 33-year-old associate professor of planetary science and a graduate of the University of Leicester, having studied for her PhD in the Department of Physics & Astronomy under the supervision of Professor Steve Milan. She has held posts at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and the University of Michigan, and is currently involved in instrument design and operation for ESA’s next mission to Mercury. Suzie is also an elite rower and a highly-experienced mountaineer.

She has written computer code to identify and map unclimbed peaks in the Andes and Himalayas before setting off to climb them herself. Suzie has been interested in space from a young age, and has spent her academic career looking at our solar system – her current research looks at terrestrial space weather and Mercury’s magnetosphere.