April 27, 2015, by Tara de Cozar

First Briton in space to speak at technicians’ conference

The 2015 Higher Education Technician’s Conference takes place at the University in May— and one of the keynote speakers is an astronaut.

An astronaut!

Helen Sharman OBE is a British scientist and astronaut, who became the first Briton in space in 1991 when she launched on a Soyuz spacecraft to spend eight days orbiting the Earth.

After responding to a radio advertisement asking for applicants, Helen was one of two Britons selected for astronaut training ahead of nearly 13,000 other applicants. The programme was a cooperative arrangement between the Soviet Union and a British company that was set up to manage the mission.

Helen carried out her share of spacecraft operations and once in space her tasks included medical, agricultural and chemical experiments, and materials’ testing, Earth observation work and an amateur radio link with British school students, fitting in media interviews — and a phone conversation with President Gorbachev.
“Coping with risk was a daily activity and team work was a vital element in the success of the mission,” Helen told us.

Helen started professional life with a degree in chemistry and worked in research and development for GEC before moving to Mars Confectionery, where she became a Research Technologist for chocolate and ice cream. More recently, Helen managed a research group at the National Physical Laboratory and now, with a team of technicians, she manages technical support and diverse facilities including tissue culture, concrete curing and wind tunnels across two campuses for science, engineering and computing at Kingston University, London.

A Chartered Chemist, Helen is affiliated to a range of professional societies, associations and institutions in the UK and internationally. She supports charities and organisations involved with science education, travelling the globe to enhance the communication and teaching of science.

Helen added: “We should push forward not only our own individual boundaries but also the boundaries of what humans believe is possible. People are the biggest limitations in our own lives. There’s a huge amount we can do and we should make the best use of our lives for the benefit of the world.”

This is a woman who has been both an astronaut and a research technologist for chocolate and ice cream. I think we all need to listen to what she has to say…

The conference is being supported by the M6 Universities consortium and technicians from all of the partner institutions are welcome. Visit the conference website for more information or to book your place.

Helen-Sharman Sharman

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