EPEC Profiles – José Eduardo Silva

EPEC Profiles – José Eduardo Silva

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

José Eduardo Silva is a PhD Candidate in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) in Lisbon, Portugal. He works with spacecraft imaging data of Solar System planets in order to study the dynamics and features of their atmospheres. 

Though I was curious and interested in other worlds throughout my childhood, my planetary journey only truly began shortly before I enrolled in a Bachelor of Physics course at the Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon. My initial curiosity was guided towards stellar birth and interstellar medium (in part due to the seductive and beautiful imagery from Hubble Space Telescope), but I’ve found myself steered towards the study of Solar System planets ever since my Master’s course.

What struck me from the beginning as both magnificent and awe inspiring is the diversity of ‘little worlds’ within such a tiny corner of the Universe (our Solar System), from the scorching wasteland of the surface of Venus, to the icy plains of Pluto – taking a left turn into the strange configuration of the gas giants, planets without a surface and with mesmerizing atmospheric patterns.

Currently I’m close to the ‘end of the beginning’ of my astronomical journey (I hope), working to conclude a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics, still in sunny Lisbon. My main focus is on the study of the dynamics of atmospheres of several planets – most recently Venus, although I’m always eager to take a few jabs at other targets. This exploration includes using spacecraft and ground based data to study how the atmosphere behaves and find out about the driving mechanisms that sustain wildly different modes of circulation. To do this, I went in search of particular atmospheric features called atmospheric gravity waves on Venus, one possible key ingredient in powering the enigmatic super-rotion of Venus’ atmosphere (at the cloud top the atmosphere of Venus rotates about 60 times faster than the solid globe).

This bubbling curiosity usually spills over, which has made me find a second passion in my life: sharing this wonderful cosmos of astronomy and planetary sciences with whoever is willing to listen to me. I’ve been involved in outreach activities since 2012, usually stargazing with the general public with a little help from portable telescopes but also small lectures and even sailing across the stars as my Portuguese ancestors once did.

During my PhD I also took the opportunity to teach minor physics courses to Bachelor’s students in other areas, including computing engineering and geophysics. Though only an assistant, this adventure has been the seed of my third passion and ambition: teaching astronomy in an attempt to improve education and elevate this field in my country.

Today, as I’m writing this text and my thesis at the same time, I wonder where this road will lead. I can only hope that my skills in image-analysis and atmospheric characteristion will take me to many worlds in the Solar System, so that then I can share that knowledge back to the wider community because, in my view, science is truly for everyone!

In the meantime I’ll try to continue exploring this world, hiking through the landscape, or other worlds through storytelling around the table.

An essential component to scientific research is teamwork and collaboration. EPEC has provided a wonderful opportunity to meet and work with enthusiastic people who have inspired me in more ways than I can count. It is also the best place to cement the important influence early careers can have in shaping up the science of tomorrow. I’ve been continuously thrilled to be part of the team and give a hand to my fellow colleagues on all things concerning our field and hope for a better future for all of us!

José Eduardo Silva

More information about José Eduardo Silva:



Contact: jsilva@oal.ul.pt

José Eduardo Silva. Image credit: J. Silva

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Ines Belgacem

EPEC Profiles – Ines Belgacem

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Ines is currently a research fellow at the European Space Agency in Madrid, Spain. She studies the icy surfaces of our solar system and, more particularly, Jupiter’s icy moons in preparation for ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission. Her main focus is looking at photometric data – i.e. how the light is reflected off of a surface w.r.t. the geometry of observation and illumination. This is directly linked to the surface microtexture (roughness, shape of particles, etc.) and can help us learn more about the evolution of a planetary body and the processes at play. 

She graduated with her PhD in November 2019 from the Université of Paris Saclay in France for which she was awarded the Amelia Earhart fellowship (Zonta international) in 2018. She completed the first part of her studies at ISAE-SUPAERO and Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France in engineering and astrophysics. 

Ines is also very invested in outreach activities. She loves sharing her passion with the general public and especially getting kids engaged in space science and astrophysics. Recently, she co-created with fellow scientists he Sens’Astro association with the aim to share content to discover space through the 5 senses. Not only is it an original way of looking at astrophysics but the main objective is to make the wonders of space accessible to people with sensory disabilities.

Born and raised in Toulouse, France, she maintains strong ties to her hometown with her outreach and advocacy engagements. She is one of the ambassadors of the OSE l’ISAE-SUPAERO program of the ISAE-SUPAERO foundation aimed at promoting access to higher studies to children from rural and underserved areas. Diversity and representation are subjects very close to her heart. 

She has joined the Europlanet society and EPEC in 2019 as an Early Career Officer for the French hub and has since been very involved in the EPEC committee as well as the communications working group. She is part of the newly formed team managing the social media accounts of EPEC.

EPEC has been a great way to meet young planetary scientists from all over Europe that I would have never crossed paths with. I made new friends and I’m happy to keep building the network and its activities together.


More information about Ines Belgacem:

Contact: ines.belgacem@esa.int

Ines Belgacem. Image credit: Ines Belgacem

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Melissa Mirino (doctoral candidate at The Open University and of the Chair EPEC Communications Working Group) shares how the extraordinary experiences of 2020 inspired her to launch a contest to bring together the early career community. This story is an extract from the first Issue of the Europlanet magazine.

The year 2020 will be always remembered as a year of isolation, disruption of the normal daily activities, and in extreme cases a year of loss. However, during this period we all did our best to find alternative solutions to carry on with our lives, jobs and activities and remain positive and connected with each other using the current available technologies. Research and academia have not been an exception. Both the Europlanet Society and the Europlanet Early Career Network (EPEC) did their best to remain active, and to guarantee the usual sharing of ideas and scientific results by transforming the EPSC 2020 Conference into a virtual meeting. 

As Chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group, I wanted to create an activity that could combine the EPEC goal of supporting early careers, our working group’s aim of communication, and the need to transform face-to-face activities into a shareable, interactive and online form to support the EPSC2020 virtual meeting. The idea of a video contest came to mind. This format is already considered by many universities as a good way to train and challenge students in science communication. Since the main subject of EPSC is planetary science, the topic of the video contest was easy to identify. With support from the EPSC2020 Outreach and Europlanet Communications teams, and many months of planning, creating and sharing the new activity, the #PlanetaryScience4All video contest became a reality. #PlanetaryScience4All challenges early career students to present their research in four minutes to a non-expert audience. 

The first edition (2020) of the contest was open to Ph.D. candidates involved in planetary science studies, asking them to explain their Ph.D. research using any type of creative video format (Lego movies, drawing, PowerPoint, storytelling, etc.). The videos were judged based on criteria of scientific content, communication skills, and creativity by a panel of experts from the Europlanet Community. All the contestants and their videos were featured in live sessions during EPSC2020, promoted on YouTube, and shared widely on social media. The winning video was highlighted through the Europlanet website and newsletters, and it has also been used for EPEC outreach activities. The winner of the 2020 edition, Grace Richards, received free registration to this year’s EPSC2021 meeting. Recently, Grace and Gloria Tognon, another contestant, have also joined the EPEC Communications Working Group to support our activities. Based on the success of the 2020 competition, I feel confident that #PlanetaryScience4All will become a traditional part of EPSC. 

The second edition is now open, this year welcoming Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as PhD candidates working on a thesis related to planetary science.

For more information FAQs, flyers, and the submission form visit: https://www.europlanet-society.org/early-careers-network/epec-communications-group/planetaryscience4all-video-contest/

Videos from the 2020 #PlanetaryScience4All contest can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/ playlist?list=PLPXeplhp1d00fmFd9vYXirNt_gyZrKOPA. The first Europlanet Magazine issue is available at: https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-magazine/issue-1/?fbclid=IwAR38hwgnbbP6Y3Vn6RdQZNOZ_OPQhsFQuuvEGY5VhP4vUnebRRH_u9IJniQ#dearflip-df_16450/42/

Inspiring Stories – Roving with Rosalind

Inspiring Stories – Roving with Rosalind

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Sara Motaghian, a doctoral student at the Natural History Museum (London), tells us about her experience organising ‘Roving with Rosalind’ for classrooms across the UK.

Roving with Rosalind is a series of curriculum-based activities which give students the opportunity to overcome challenges and solve problems based on the ExoMars mission. We have created 5 large practical kits to be housed at STEM hubs across the UK filled with engaging workshops and activities linked to space science. 

We applied to the UK Space Agencies Aurora Outreach funding in the summer of 2019 to make the Roving with Rosalind project a reality and were ecstatic to be awarded the funding at the end of that year. The project aims to reach to 7000 students across the UK in total during its primary funding period. At the end of the project’s nominal funding timeline, the kits and resources will be hosted indefinitely by STEM Learning ensuring the kits can be collected and used well beyond the first 7000 students. 

In total, 20 educational, curricula-mapped resources have been created to accompany the practical kits. The project funds the postage of the kits to schools in order to remove funding and geographical barriers to participation in STEM initiatives, improving opportunity and equity in STEM learning. This model helps us to reach schools and students that are geographically distant from science centres, universities and museums, and schools that don’t have the funding to engage with other initiatives. 

Roving with Rosalind breakdown

The main activity categories are: 

  1. Landing site selection, geology and remote sensing
  2. Rover and mission design
  3. Instrument design and building
  4. Analogue missions (the most fun!)
  5. Sample analysis
  6. Learn to code in Python
Romanby Primary School building programmable rovers to explore the Maps of Mars – our pilot school!

The main activity is the analogue missions where students explore a map of the ExoMars landing site, in one of three ways, to search for points of interest and data to analyse. First, students can walk around the map as the rover, communicating with their team as mission control. Secondly, they can utilise remote-control rovers with video feedback to simulate the difficulty in controlling a rover from afar. Or thirdly, they can build and program the included rovers to execute a path across the map. For every point of interest students locate they receive a data downlink from Mars to analyse!

Spectroscope the students build as part of the designing instruments activity and the solar spectrum you can see with them. 

We were really lucky to be able to launch Roving with Rosalind during National Astronomy Week and deliver a rover design and building workshop to over 200 school classes and ~5000 students! We have been able to send our kits to three classes so far, restricted due to COVID, and 100 students to date. We have been able to partner with several STEM equity programmes, like In2Science and Girls into Geoscience, to deliver out Python programming workshops to over 300 upper secondary students with amazing success, and the program has already received some great feedback:

“[It] has been one great interesting and informative experience. I enjoyed everything … provided for the participants. One particular event: I had never done coding before. It was a bit challenging since I had no idea where to begin but the mentors made it so easy to grasp. I’m very excited, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I will definitely do it as an extracurricular activity in my free time. There were a lot of courses. I was clear about what I wanted to do, but the courses gave me a lot more information about the university and beyond. I want to study physics so I’m looking forward to University and onwards.”

As well as reaching students, the Roving with Rosalind programme also aims to improve teacher confidence in the delivery of STEM resources and has provided training to over 50 teachers, technicians, STEM ambassadors and lecturers. The Roving with Rosalind framework is also now being used as a basis for a Europe-wide outreach project run by the ESA Robotics Working Group. 

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Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!

EPEC Profiles – Arianna Ricchiuti

EPEC Profiles – Arianna Ricchiuti

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Arianna Ricchiuti is a Biologist with a Master in Science Communication and Journalism. She is currently Editor of EJR-Quartz for the European Space Agency (ESA), working at ESA Communication Office in Noordwijk (Netherlands), where she is responsible for internal communications and events.

Prior to this role, Arianna had been working as Planetarium Presenter and Outreach Officer at the Planetarium of Bari (Italy), creating and hosting shows and astronomical observations for schools and general public. Arianna has also been speaker at many science congresses and festivals all over Europe.

Her commitment towards science communication brought her different awards: from the victory in the 2016 national final of FameLab, worldwide competition about science communication, to the 2020 Space Factor Award from EANA, the European Astrobiology Network Association.

Arianna Ricchiuti with ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Luca Parmitano during the ESTEC Open Day 2020.
Image Credit: Arianna Ricchiuti

I’ve always dreamt of working at ESA. During the first years of university, I had the chance to meet astronauts like Umberto Guidoni and Paolo Nespoli, who inspired me to pursue a career in the space field, particularly towards ESA. At the same time I started to work at the Planetarium of Bari, where I discovered the world of scicomm and outreach… and I fell in love with it! That’s why I went on with a Master in Science Communication and in 2019 I started a 6-months internship at ESA ESTEC, the main site of the agency, based in NL. It was such an exciting time, where I had the chance to live and work with people from all over the world and take part in unique activities (I even created an exhibition!). In 2020 I got a position as Editor with EJR-Quartz, an amazing company that offers communication, marketing and social media services to several institutions, ESA included… Literally what I’ve been dreaming of! I must say starting a new job abroad during a pandemic has been really tough, but I’m truly grateful to my company for the chance, support and lovely atmosphere.

Never give up guys, opportunities can come and change your life in unexpected ways.

I joined EPEC one year ago and it was the best decision of my life! I’ve found a community of passionate and dynamic young professionals, who are really trasforming the world of science communication and outreach through brilliant initiatives and networking opportunities. Looking forward to meeting you all!

Arianna Ricchiuti

More information about Arianna Ricchiuti:

Contact: arianna94ricchiuti@gmail.com

Arianna Ricchiuti. Credit: Marisa Di Pinto.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Gloria Tognon, a doctoral student at the Center of Studies and Activities for Space ‘G. Colombo’ of Padua (Italy), tells us about her experience of taking part in the European PLANMAP project.

Scientific knowledge is not just intended for a limited number of people and should be shared and made accessible to everyone. The Horizon 2020 PLANetary MAPping (PLANMAP) project is committed to the production of highly informative geological maps of Mars, Mercury, and the Moon, and every European partner dedicated part of its activities to communication and dissemination.

The main aim of PLANMAP was for several products (geological and spectral maps, 3D geomodels, and virtual environments) to be made freely available online to the scientific community as well as the general public. A particular focus was put on the promotion of planetary geology to young people through the creation of downloadable artworks, digital story maps, and a comic novel published in a special issue of the PLaNCK! Magazine about PLANMAP, “Geomapping other worlds” , which also contained interviews with young researchers working on the project.

Within the framework of outreach activities for young people in the general public, all PLANMAP partners actively organised and participated in festivals, public talks, seminars and school activities. Kids in particular were the main targets of European Researchers’ Nights, and although the events were open to the general public, I can tell you that young people from 5 to 10 years old constituted the real audience. The creation of games and video presentations as a way to engage and hold their attention while explaining difficult ideas in the easiest and funniest way was a crucial step. It may not always be easy for adults to think of ways to communicate science to young people, but for me, videos and games represent a recreational pursuit and a super rewarding experience.

Stands of planetary geology at the European Researchers’ Nights 2018 and 2019 at the University of Padua.

Less imagination and more practical thinking were required in February 2021 when the PLANMAP project concluded its activities, and put its last efforts into organising the virtual ‘Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School’, which engaged more than 50 instructors from at least 9 European institutions to address 150 registered participants from all around the world. During the school, I had the great opportunity to share my knowledge of planetary geologic mapping with the students, and to organise the final event displaying the ‘Virtual Reality environments for planetary applications and training for astronauts’. Promoted, funded and sustained by the Ambassade de France en Italie-Institut Français en Italie, Center of Studies and Activities for Space “G. Colombo” of Padua and the PLANMAP project, this event provided online lectures and a virtual reality experience simultaneously held in Padua and Nantes. Participants had an amazing chance to have a real-world perception of another planet, and take a field trip to Mars to perform scientific measurements in the field.

Interactive VR experience with geologic science measurements inside the PLANMAP environment. 

I can assure you that engaging with people and sharing your knowledge with them will help you develop your communication skills and self-confidence. Above all, it is the most worthwhile life experience!

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!

EPEC Profiles – Safoura Tanbakouei

EPEC Profiles – Safoura Tanbakouei

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Safoura Tanbakouei is a planetary science researcher working as a Postdoc in Division of Earth and Planetary Science and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

Studying the solar system and its bodies has always been a dream to me, since I was in school, and I am so pleased for being in this amazing field and try to have a crucial role in planetary explorations.
In the last 6 years, I am have been working in the field of planetary science investigating various planetary exploration methods such as laboratory spectroscopy from ultraviolet to Near-infrared spectroscopy of meteorites and asteroids.

I obtained my doctoral degree in 2020 from Institute of Space Sciences in University of Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain on the topic of Mineralogy and spectral properties of asteroids and meteorites. In my thesis I have done Raman spectroscopy and nanoindentation techniques on the samples of asteroid Itokawa –returned samples by Hayabusa missin of JAXA- to find out the shock phases of the regolith and also physical properties of asteroid Itokawa. I have achieved many expertise in the reflectivity of the space rocks and their comparison to the reflectance properties of minor bodies in the solar system.

In my current position, I am doing research in the natural resources on Mars, mineralogy and spectroscopy of Martian surface. Doing mineral mapping of the hydrated phases in the surface of Mars and try to locate water regions.

I believe being part of the EPEC is be a great experience of networking, interacting with other planetray scientists among the world, enhancing creativity and sharing science plus fun!

Safoura Tanbakouei

More information about Safoura Tanbakouei:

Contact: stanba@hku.hk

Safoura Tanbakouei. Credit: Safoura Tanbakouei’s archive.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Julie Nováková

EPEC Profiles – Julie Nováková

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Julie Nováková is an evolutionary biologist with an interest in astrobiology and planetary science, educator and award-winning Czech author and editor of science fiction. She co-teaches an astrobiology class at her alma mater, the Faculty of Science, Charles University, and co-organises an astrobiology seminar there.

Julie has been doing science outreach for more than a decade now, and writing science fiction for even longer. She has merged these activities as the leader of the ‘Science Fiction as A Tool of Astrobiology Outreach & Education’ project team at the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) and co-leader of EAI’s outreach working group.

As her first major project at the EAI, she created an outreach anthology of acclaimed authors’ science fiction stories with astrobiological topics, each accompanied by a themed nonfiction piece written by herself. The book, titled ‘Strangest of All’, is freely available in several e-book formats at her own website and EAI’s site, and it also includes tips for use in classroom. More books, exhibitions, talks and interviews are being prepared by her and her team.

Image credit: Julie Nováková’s archive

She received the Professor Jaroslav Heyrovský Award (Charles University’s Rector’s Award for students of natural sciences) in 2017, and has amassed multiple awards as a writer, editor and translator. Science and storytelling are her two greatest passions, and she intends to further pursue both and integrate them in innovative outreach projects in the vein of STEAM.

The goal? First evoke the sense of wonder and curiosity… and then take it from there. Always make people ask more questions rather than just memorise answers. Always show the amazing, often tumultuous and sometimes erroneous journey to a scientific conclusion. Firstly, it’s a story to tell. Secondly, understanding the process of science promotes critical thinking and more in-depth understanding rather than shallow memory. By engaging people’s emotions, stories can, hand in hand with other approaches, help achieve this.

Julie is also a member of Europlanet Society and the XPRIZE Sci-fi Advisory Council. Her newest book is a story collection titled The Ship Whisperer (Arbiter Press, 2020).

Why EPEC? Because communities are vital in science. The popular image of the ‘lone wolf scientist’ is so far from actual reality! Scientific work is achieved in teams and further circles, and EPEC enables early-career researchers to find inspiration, mentors, friends, useful information and better footing to pursue their careers.


More information about Julie Nováková:

Contact: julie.novakova@natur.cuni.cz

Julie Nováková. Credit: Julie Nováková’s archive.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Social Media Pages

The EPEC Communication Working Group is responsible for the presence of all the EPEC activities. The aim of the social media pages is to highlight the contribution of young professionals within the space sector. Currently, we are active on two platforms, Twitter and Facebook, and we plan to expand our presence in the future also in other media, with the objective to reach and connect as many Early Career people as possible. If you would like to get updates for the EPEC activities, job and funding opportunities, new research and open candidacies within our network, follow us and help us to spread the news!!

Facebook EPEC page:

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