Sara Motaghian

Role/companyFourth year PhD student, Imperial College London

Subject area: Martian planetary science and space missions

Nationality: Scottish–Iranian

I am studying for my PhD at both the Natural History Museum London and the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial. I'm currently in my third year of my PhD, focusing on Martian planetary science and space missions. I am working on some of the instruments on board the ExoMars 2022 mission, designed to find signs of past or present life on the red planet.

Hear from Sara, who is studying Martian planetary science, about why she wanted to work on these topics.

Interview with Sara

Hear from Sara, who is studying Martian planetary science, about why she wanted to work on these topics.

Education

EducationGCSE (or equivalent): Scottish Standard Grades – Maths, Physics, Biology, English, French, Art, Modern Studies

A-Level (or equivalent): Scottish Highers – Maths, Physics, Biology, English, Modern Studies, Art. Scottish Advanced Highers – Maths and Physics 

Degrees:
• MSci in Physics with Astrophysics, University of Glasgow
• PhD in Martian planetary science and space (ongoing), Imperial College London


Detail about Sara

Research

My research

I am working on instrumentation that will be used to understand the surface of Mars, search for signs of life, and select drill sites in the search for life. I'm building analysis tools and protocols to improve our chances of finding evidence of life on Mars – if it exists!

My inspiration

My inspiration

I love the stars, planets, and the stories of astronauts – I used to climb out onto my roof to stare at the night sky. Throughout my education I've been fortunate to be taught by incredible teachers who have always inspired and encouraged me to pursue my interest in astrophysics and a career in space.

My STEM hero

Who is your STEM hero?

Professor Lyndsay Fletcher, a lecturer and supervisor I had the pleasure to work with during my undergraduate degree – she is incredible! Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride are also people I’ve really looked up to in STEM.

A smiconductor

Most significant discovery/invention?

I think I’d have to go with semiconductor electronics – they form the basis of most of our technology. They got us to the moon, enable satellite monitoring for climate change, and just about everything else we do.

Mars Rover Perseverance

Career options after study

  • Mission research in academia
  • Working in a space agency on mission or instrument development
  • Working with a commercial company on exploration technology
Scottish dancing

My hobbies

I love to dance and fly planes. I have competed in the States at the world dance championships as part of the Scottish Dance team – in Disney.

Sara talks about exploring our solar system, the ExoMars 2022, mission and exploring the surface of Mars.

Sara talks about her research

Sara talks about exploring our solar system, the ExoMars 2022 mission, and exploring the surface of Mars.

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