Thursday, 20 June 2013

Silicon Valley: The Land of Innovation

The opportunity found within the Silicon Valley is evident from just walking down the street. A mere 4 hours ago I returned from work and had exciting evening plans such as eating ice cream for dinner. Little did I know that I actually had an evening ahead of me filled with innovation, first-hand entrepreneurial advice and the infamous Google Glass.

This all took place at Singularity University (SU), sister university of my very own International Space University (ISU). After bumping into Peter Diamandis, co-founder of ISU, founder of the X PRIZE Foundation and now SU, my friends and I were invited to a 'fireside interview' with Marc Andreessen. American entrepreneur, software engineer, co-founder of Silicon Valley venture capital firm 'Andreesson Horowitz' and of course multi-billionaire, Marc was interviewed by Peter Diamandis for the SU summer graduate program entrepreneurs and I to hear.

I gained valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations involved with starting and running a company as well as investing into one. When asked what two pieces of advice he would give to the next generation Marc suggested:

1) Use lead bullets not silver - focus on working more, not spending more
2) Work smarter, not harder - if a strategy doesn't work, then change it. 

The icing on the Silicon cake was finally getting a chance to try on a pair of Google Glass. Luckily for me, future-medicine genius & medical chair of SU, Daniel Kraft whom I met last year in Florida was in attendance and kind enough to accommodate my geeky excitement and let me try the $1500 gadget on. I have to say, saying "okay Glass" to a pair of glasses on my head did make me feel pretty ridiculous. Especially since Google have yet to add a posh British-girl accent recognition feature! However the capability that the product already has and will have are endless.

What do you think? Is Glass the future of hands-free technology or an invasion of privacy? One thing's for sure: it will definitely become the Marmite of the technology world: you either love it or you hate it!


Friday, 14 June 2013

50th Anniversary of Women in Space

June 16th marks the day that the first woman flew into space. 50 years ago this weekend, Valentina Tereshkova flew on the USSR spacecraft Vostok 6, 2 years after Yuri Gagarin's 1961 pioneering spaceflight. 

The aim of her flight was to test whether the female body was able to survive in zero gravity as well as determining whether a woman could pilot a spacecraft. Following her 70.8 hour flight, Valentina never flew again but has become a symbol for women around the world who are inspired to follow in her footsteps.

By the mid-80s, female astronauts had become more prominent, amongst them Sally Ride the first American woman in space, Helen Sharman the first British female astronaut and Eileen Collins, the first female pilot and commander of a Space Shuttle. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams holds the record for longest single spaceflight for a woman (192 days), total spacewalks for a woman (seven) and the most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 mins). 

The plethora of notable female astronauts that there now are serve as role models for the younger generation to look up. to and identify with. They are demonstrations of the exploration of space by both men and women as something achievable and most importantly, necessary for the future of our species. My personal role models are Nicole Stott whom I had the chance to meet last year and Sunita Williams (who is on my list of people to meet)!

To this day, Valentina Tereshkova remains as the only woman to have  made a solo space flight. At 76 years old, she is now willing to make a one-way trip to Mars, her favourite planet. It is this courage, determination and love of exploration that I believe will enable women from all backgrounds to believe in themselves and work towards achieving similar and inevitably greater success. 

The 50th woman in space, astronaut Karen Nyberg who's currently aboard the International Space Station has commemorated this special weekend dedicated to Valentina and females working in and towards the space industry in the video below:


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Becoming a NASA Intern

For the past 3 weeks I've been interning at NASA Ames Research Center in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco. Renowned for its innovative approach, Ames is the perfect place for me to explore where I want my career to take me and to meet extra-ordinary people that can help me to identify this. 

Serving as the newest member of the NASA New Media Innovation Team (NMIT) I've been lucky enough to have the most interesting, creative and intelligent mentor, Dr. Yvonne Clearwater. With over 40 years of work at Ames, Yvonne joined Ames as a member of the International Space Station (ISS) design team and was the Principle Investigator on early ISS designs. As well as this, she developed the official NASA App, 'NASA on the (Flickr) Commons and the inspirational website NASA ArtSpace (found here:

Together, we are working to increase public awareness and involvement in the creative cultural convergence of art, science and technology as it serves to inspire space exploration. We have been developing innovative projects to increase public communication and connection with NASA. In particular, utilising the powerful tool of new media platforms to increase public engagement with NASA Ames.

I'll be working here for 3 months and already have had the opportunity to go to a number of events at exciting places such as the SETI Institute: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Singularity University as well as meeting the Director of Ames Pete Worden and the NASA Administrator Charles Bolden!

Lunchtime conversations between the synthetic biologist to the neighbouring astrophysicist and their quantum computing friend have become an everyday occurrence for my fellow interns and I, and it's something I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing. It's s a daily reminder of the unique environment I'm in and I feel very fortunate to be in the midst of the ground-breaking research and technological advancement that is and will help us explore the Universe as well as sustain life as we know it on Earth.

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