Eloise Matheson was always determined to work in the space industry. She studied mechatronics at the University of Sydney under their unique space engineering stream, and was one of the first people to complete the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies program.
She spent two years working in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Telerobotics and Haptics Lab as a graduate trainee. But Eloise has also used her robotics skills in other fields. Her honours and PhD research projects both looked at robotics in medical technology, and she now works at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.
CERN has hundreds of kilometres of tunnels in its facility, all of which need to be cleaned and maintained under radioactive conditions. Robots help get the job done faster and more safely.
“It’s quite similar to a space site,” says Eloise. “You have a tricky communication line, you have robots quite a distance away from you, and you have a hazardous environment. It's a bit like space, in that it’s an extreme environment and you have some of the same challenges.”
During her time at ESA, Eloise worked on the METERON series of experiments. These looked at how well astronauts could control robots on Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).
In one experiment, called INTERACT, Eloise’s team had an astronaut on the ISS drive a rover on Earth. The rover then had to put a peg in a hole in a task board. The astronaut operating the rover received haptic feedback – in other words, feeling what the robot could feel. But a one-second delay made the task even more challenging.
“It’s a bit like trying to put a key in a lock when you have cold hands,” says Eloise. “If you’re doing it only by sight, you keep failing. But if you can also feel what’s happening, it’s easier to do.”
Eloise might not be working in the space industry right now, but she still has a passion for the unknown. She also has plans to apply for the ESA’s astronaut program in the next round.
“What I’ve found in the space industry is this passion,” she says. “Everyone is motivated by exploration of the unknown. If you join the space industry, you’ll be working in a field where everyone is as passionate as you are.”
- Eloise completed a Bachelor of Science (Nanoscience)/Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics/Space Engineering) at the University of Sydney in 2010.
- In 2011, Eloise took part in the inaugural Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program run by the International Space University and University of South Australia. She then went on to complete the Graduate Certificate in Space Studies at the University of South Australia.
- For six months in 2012, Eloise worked as a Systems Engineer at Aerospace Concepts (now known as Shoal Group). Here, she worked on the curriculum for a space technology course run by ADFA.
- Eloise then spent two years studying the European Master of Advanced Robotics. She spent the first year at the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland before moving to the Ecole Centrale de Nantes in France. The program is open to students from around the world, and graduates receive two degrees from two European universities.
- In 2014, Eloise moved to the Netherlands to join the European Space Agency’s graduate trainee program. For just over two years, she worked in the ESA’s Telerobotics and Haptics Lab.
- When her project at ESA wrapped up, Eloise moved again, this time to the UK. Here, she completed a PhD in Mechatronics at Imperial College, London, researching robotics in neurosurgery.
- Now, Eloise is a mechatronics engineer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, otherwise known as CERN.
- Eloise has always been involved in space organisations. She joined the National Space Society of Australia at the age of 16, and has been an active member of the UN’s Space Generation Advisory Council since 2011.