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Explore career opportunities focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths


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Interviews

David McKeown, Space Scientist

David McKeown, Space Scientist

David McKeown is a space scientist with the European Space Agency. David also lectures on the Space Science and Technology Masters at University College Dublin in the areas of vibrations and control as well as launchers.

Ask me your
first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

After my PhD, I became a researcher in TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living), doing healthcare research for elderly people to make their lives easier.

After two years, UCD got the ESA contract so I went back to mechanical engineering and started research on vibration in spacecrafts.

Describe a typical day?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

Our team does a lot of computer simulations. We make mathematical models and draw 3D models that represent a rocket. We can simulate an entire launch from Earth to orbit.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

During my first ESA project, we looked at space telescopes. They are 20 metres long and they shake when they move, which causes a blurry picture. We worked on ways to get a clear picture even when moving.

We also worked on an experimental robot arm for a Mars Rover. You have to solve problems for the atmosphere on Mars. This is difficult as things don't weigh the same.

Now we’re trying to control vibrations on launchers. When a rocket takes off, the whole rocket vibrates as it is made of very light material. If it vibrates it might go off course. We’re working on ways to control these vibrations.

I also lecture the Space Science and Technology Masters at University College Dublin (UCD) on the areas of vibrations and control as well as launchers.

What's cool?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

Being able to work on something I'm very passionate about.

What is your education to date?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

I went to UCD to study mechanical engineering. When I finished my degree, I did a PhD in the area of flight dynamics and control systems. Flight dynamics is about how things move and control systems is about making things move the way you want them to.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

Find something that you’re passionate about and it will make your life a lot more enjoyable. 

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

I run quite a few outreach events, including Science Hack Day and Artek Circle. I also run Dublin Maker. It gives anyone who tinkers with stuff in their garage the opportunity to show it to the public and explain how it works.

I’ve talked at events such as Electric Picnic and TEDxDublin, and in the Science Gallery. Science is very interesting – it just needs to be communicated in the right way.

What is your current job title?

David McKeown, Space Scientist

Space Scientist

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