Planetary Sciences with Dr Carly Howett (#28)

We talk about planetary sciences, icy worlds, and the upcoming NASA Lucy Mission.

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Dr. Carly Howett is an Associate Professor at Oxford University. She is mainly interested in understanding the surface properties of icy worlds, including Saturn’s icy moons, Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, Europa, and Kuiper Belt Objects (including Pluto and Charon). She is the Deputy Principal Investigator of the Ralph Instrument on New Horizons, an Instrument Scientist on NASA’s newly selected Lucy mission and a Co-Investigator on two other NASA missions: Cassini and Europa Clipper.

In our conversation, we talk about planetary sciences, icy worlds, and the upcoming NASA Lucy Mission.

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Show Notes

[00:00:40] Carly’s interest in physics
[00:01:21] The benefits of the combination of physics and management studies
[00:01:45] The opportunity to meet people from other disciplines
[00:03:14] Universities wanting to provide value and ensure their graduates are properly equipped
[00:03:40] There’s a lot of project management in science
[00:04:32] What the administrative side of science involves
[00:04:51] ‘Always think about the business applications of what you’re doing’
[00:05:05] Why planetary sciences?
[00:05:17] An Essex girl wanting to learn more about the unknown
[00:06:42] The journey from physics to planetary science
[00:07:24] A bit of misfortune lead to an opportunity to do a Masters in Space Science
[00:08:45] UK space sciences in the early 2000s
[00:10:07] Studentships gave Carly the opportunity to pursue a path she would otherwise not have been able to take
[00:10:47] Carly’s mother and Doctor Who as influences
[00:11:12] Doctor Who makes science accessible
[00:11:59] Carly’s mother’s creativity fuelling her interests
[00:12:53] The process of developing wipers for the lander
[00:14:46] Tangible science
[00:15:23] From wipers to icy worlds
[00:15:37] A Phd opportunity working with both JPL and the University of Oxford
[00:16:29] Taking a punt
[00:16:46] Finding her people, smashing her expectations of Oxbridge
[00:17:28] Being mentored and working at JPL
[00:19:07] Choosing your outlook in spite of impostor syndrome
[00:21:19] Cassini and moving to the US
[00:23:10] Southwest Research Institute
[00:24:32] Working on missions and the diversity of planetary science
[00:25:16] Returning to Oxford to teach
[00:25:57] The novelty of planetary science
[00:26:07] The Kuiper Belt and meeting Brian May
[00:28:41] Impostor syndrome
[00:29:51] On applying for a professorship
[00:31:09] The challenges of applying for jobs with a newborn
[00:34:44] Interview nerves not always a show-stopper
[00:35:43] On discussing impostor syndrome to help dispel it
[00:37:22] The choice to take a professorship in a different country
[00:38:50] Heart and head decisions
[00:39:38] The challenges of starting a new job during a pandemic
[00:40:51] Working on the Lucy, Cassini, New Horizons, Europa Clipper, and Trident Missions
[00:43:34] Investigating Europa’s icy world
[00:44:09] The icy possibilities of Triton
[00:45:57] Putting the duration of outer solar systems into perspective
[00:47:12] Using a lightweight nuclear powered spacecraft
[00:48:42] What being an instrument scientist involves
[00:49:11] How the hardware will impact the science
[00:51:21] The kind of work that can be done remotely
[00:52:54] Thermal Vacuum Testing (TVAC) - shake and bake
[00:54:15] The benefits and disadvantages of less travel
[00:55:00] Geographical proximities to other countries and cultures
[00:55:40] Regional accents and language
[00:57:50] The joys of linguistic accommodation
[00:59:52] International collaboration and science
[01:01:28] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[01:01:34] Triathlons and duathlons
[01:02:31] Being a Brit around sunshine
[01:04:32] Climbing around Oxford
[01:05:21] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[01:05:47] What the Lord of the Rings means to Carly
[01:07:44] Children’s literature as a parent
[01:08:48] Differences in Enid Blyton editions
[01:10:31] Carly’s Enid Blyton experiences
[01:13:17] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[01:13:24] There is a place for you somewhere, don’t be afraid to pursue your passions
[01:15:22] Do not feel compelled to meet others’ expectations
[01:16:34] Ideas of your self and circumstances should not limit you
[01:18:30] Sound off
[01:19:43] Reaching out to Carly

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