Jenny’s talent recognised with national award

Posted by cc576 at Jul 16, 2020 05:31 PM |
Dr Jenny Carter awarded L'Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland For Women In Science Rising Talent award

Congratulations to Dr Jenny Carter, who was nominated, and won the L'Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland For Women In Science Rising Talents award. Here, we discuss her award-winning SMILE project, and her experiences of being a scientist at University of Leicester.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme, founded in 2000, highlights the achievements of women in the early stages of their scientific careers. Each year, the programme selects the 15 most promising women scientists from among the more than 250 national and regional young talents of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for the Women in Science programme.

Jenny was recognised for her project called SMILE, a joint European Space Agency, Chinese Academy of Sciences mission due to be launched in late 2023. She explained that: “SMILE will look at how the solar wind impacts on the dayside of the magnetosphere, and simultaneously view the aurora in the ionosphere from space.

“Leicester is leading the build of one of the instruments on board - the soft X-ray imager whose principal investigator is Dr Steve Sembay from Physics and Astronomy, building on expertise in X-ray astronomy and instrumentation.

“We are also developing the SMILE data fusion facility so that we can combine SMILE X-ray images with data from ground-based radar, and other ground-based experiments, making the science that comes out of SMILE much more powerful.”

Arriving in Leicester in 2005 to work as part of the XMM-Newton team in Physics and Astronomy, Jenny starting her part-time PhD in 2007, completing it in 2011. Currently, she works in the Radio Space Plasma Physics Group as a PDRA, working on a study of how the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere interact.

“It was such an honour to be nominated for the L'Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland For Women In Science Rising Talents award,” Jenny commented. “I was able to meet all the other short-listed candidates during some preparations for the interviews, albeit briefly and online. Their research sounds fascinating and in areas that I would not often have the chance to interact with, and I would like to keep following their careers in the future.”

In winning this prestigious award, Jenny received a cash prize, which she has big plans for. She explained: “The Fellowship will allow me to continue preparing for SMILE with the ground-based solar-terrestrial community. I will also use the money to continue a programme of public engagement with a local school (and hopefully other further away schools).”

In giving these young people an opportunity to delve into science, Jenny adds: “The pupils from this school will be able to follow the design of SMILE, the build and testing of the satellite, launch, and the first science operations of the mission through a variety of activities and events. The students will be able to live the drama of the mission and understand how many people work together to make a space mission a success.”

To allow this to then take place, Jenny applied for a fellowship, which essentially is additional external money brought in for a project. For the fellowship application, Jenny also had to present a project proposal. “In my case, this had three parts: to produce some software and data analysis tools for the solar-terrestrial community that combine SMILE Soft X-ray Imager data with data from the radars that are part of the SuperDARN consortium, to travel to and work on a science project with some colleagues in the UK, and finally to build on a public engagement programme to bring SMILE to a bigger audience so that they can follow the mission through its stages.”

Jenny also has advice for other scientists, who are keen to pursue a career in academia. “Working in academia is exciting and I enjoy the mix of subjects and projects all around you that you can find out about and share in the excitement. Science can be an emotional rollercoaster, which surprised me during my PhD, so perseverance is key.”

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