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Kate’s story

When Kate Ferguson began her PhD in quantum physics, she had no idea it would lead her to the space industry. Kate was researching quantum encryption, a way of keeping communications completely secure. This involved building technology that would hopefully make encryption possible over much longer distances than current methods allow.

Then the German Aerospace Center invited Kate’s team to Germany to explore applying their research to space. At the Center, the team spent two weeks designing a quantum satellite mission. “It was amazing,” Kate says.

Kate spent several more years as a researcher at ANU, but eventually she was ready for a change. She moved into a role as a business development manager at the ANU Institute for Space, or InSpace. Kate looks after two portfolios at InSpace – Advanced Communications and Space Situational Awareness.

Her job is to meet with potential partners from industry, government and other space agencies around the world. These connections allow Kate to explore how they could collaborate with ANU’s space research team to launch space-ready missions.

While some of Kate’s team-mates are scientists, she also works with people from a wide range of backgrounds. Her colleagues have experience in areas like law, international relations, communications and marketing.

 “Those are all really important skills,” she says. “There's a lot of room for people from different backgrounds in the space industry. You don't have to be a scientist or an engineer.”

Kate’s journey

  • Kate grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. She moved to Christchurch to study a Bachelor of Science (Physics) with honours at the University of Canterbury in 2010.
  • She then moved to Canberra to take up her PhD at ANU. As part of her research, she built new technology for provably-secure quantum communication networks.
  • After completed her PhD in 2016, Kate continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow at ANU. She was also spent two weeks at the German Aerospace Center designing a quantum satellite mission. This was her first introduction to the space industry.
  • In 2019, Kate joined the ANU’s InSpace team as a business development manager. Her role is to build relationships between ANU and other industry and research organisations. This allows them to develop and fund new missions.
  • Kate was also part of the Technical Advisory Group for the Australian Space Agency Communications Technologies and Services Roadmap. The Roadmap was published in December 2020.