Congratulations to Raymond Francis and Alexandra Pontefract who are moving on to prestigious positions in the US. After doing their PhDs with me at Western and then time as post-doctoral fellows, I am both happy and sad to see them moving on. Alex and Raymond kindly provided the announcements below:
Raymond Francis has been hired by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Scientific Applications Software Engineer in the Machine Learning and Instrument Autonomy Group. His new position at JPL will combine planetary mission operations on the Mars Exploration Exploration Rover and the Mars Science Laboratory missions with research in new techniques for science mission operations, particularly in developing systems to enhance the science return of exploration missions to destinations throughout the solar system. That work requires a combined knowledge of space systems design and operation, and planetary science, skills greatly enhanced by immersion in the interdisciplinary training environment at Western, and by participation in various mission simulations, such as the CREATE CanMars deployments in 2014 and 2015.
Alexandra Pontefract has been hired by the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Her new position as Postdoctoral Associate involves the testing and development of a rover-based genome extraction and sequencing instrument, capable of single molecule detection of non-standard nucleotide sequences. The aim of this project is for the successful an unambiguous detection of extant life, and to that end, her work involves testing the equipment in Mars-analogue environments and collaborative work with a team of engineers in this phase of instrument development. Dr. Pontefract’s work at Western helped to provide her with a working knowledge of what goes into mission design and what is necessary for the flight readiness of an instrument, while also providing a multi-disciplinary environment, teaching the seamless integration between engineers and scientists necessary for planetary exploration.