Riding the Wavelength 2016

View from Mullard Space Science Laboratory

View from Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Wavelength 2016, the Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society’s annual conference for remote sensing students and early career scientists took place last week. The venue was the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) at Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, whose two hundred year old main building is deceptively stately for a science lab – panelled and furnished with seasoned wood – and had a previous life as an orphanage amongst other things.

Pixalytics, who also sponsored the event, sent two delegates this year: Dr Louisa Reynolds and Catalin Cimpianu, our ERASMUS placement student.

The conference offers a strong scientific programme of keynotes, oral presentations and posters. Catalin gave an oral presentation on the research he has been doing during his placement with us, on ‘Monitoring Urban Sprawl Patterns in the Post-Socialist Romanian Cities Using LANDSAT Imagery’. His presentation seemed to go down well with other attendees, given the questions and feedback he received.

Overall, Catalin really enjoyed the conference and found the other delegates very friendly. He felt the student presentations and posters were based on solid research, and covered a diversity of work from missions to Mars through to expeditions in Antarctica for monitoring penguin colonies. They all proved the usefulness of remote sensing and photogrammetry, together with the need for monitoring features on the Earth to get a better understanding and support sustainable future development.

Both Pixalytics representatives acknowledged the presence of some impressive keynote speakers, particularly Professor Jan-Peter Muller, Head of Imaging Group at MSSL and Kathie Bowden, UK National Space Skills and Career Development Manager at the UK Space Agency. Louisa chaired the session on Vegetation Remote Sensing, but that was not her conference highlight.

As well as offering a strong scientific programme, Wavelength also offers a highly active social scene, and for Louisa the highlight was the tour round MSSL. Seeing high precision satellite electronics being built was exciting, and learning that soldering together two of the tiny hair like legs on a ball grid array by mistake could mean the failure of a sensor demonstrated the precision needed in satellite engineering.

Component for a solar wind analyser

Component for a solar wind analyser

On the tour Louisa also saw ‘in the flesh’ the work benches, sealed and unsealed, for making the components and their housings, to fit inside part of a solar wind analyser seen in the picture on the left. Ensuring dust and water are driven from sensor components is essential to avoid condensation and inaccuracies, something we are very aware of within our work. One of the most interesting things Louisa gained from the tour was the importance of materials science for satellite engineering, such as the indispensability of lead and the lightness of aluminium. She also enjoyed the impressive cuisine of the local restaurants!

The conference generated many ideas on the latest trends and updates in Earth observation, together with suggestions on how to develop skills professional qualifications in the field. The summary of the conference comes from Catalin who said:

‘Well organized conference, the venue, the food, social activities, the attention to details and the organizational skills of the hosts were unquestionable and they proved to be very welcoming and hospitable.‘

Well done to everyone involved in Wavelength 2016, we look forward to being involved again next year!

The Road To Success….

Danube river crossing The Great Romanian Flood Plain. Image acquired by Sentinel-2A on the 3rd December 2015. Data courtesy of ESA.

Danube river crossing The Great Romanian Flood Plain. Image acquired by Sentinel-2A on the 3rd December 2015. Data courtesy of ESA.

‘On the road, you will face many stumbling blocks, twists, and turns… You may never know how far the road will take you.’ **

In my case, the road brought me to Plymouth, a city on the south coast of Devon, England, a magical place with great history and outstanding views.

What I am doing here? Well, I am pursuing my dream of becoming a GIS and Remote Sensing Specialist by doing an internship through the Erasmus + programme at a local company called Pixalytics. My mentor is Dr. Samantha Lavender, is a great professional with vast experience in this field, She is also the Chairman of the British Association of Remote Sensing Companies and former Chairman of the Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society. For me, this is about more than just getting a grade, earning credit, or making money; this is an opportunity to learn, ask questions, and impress with my eagerness.

Finding this internship was easy for me. With a short search on Google I found this Pixalytics blog, where a previous student here had posted her impressions and thoughts on the company. I immediately said “This worth trying!” In the next moment I opened my email started writing, I sent wrote emails to multiple addresses, to make sure my message reached the target. After just two days, I received an answer from Mr. Andrew Lavender and it was positive!

I was very happy and because I knew the departure papers would take over a month to be completed, I immediately started doing them. All of this happened at the end of September. After my papers were done, I bought my flight ticket to Luton Airport, then a bus to London and then onto Plymouth. I arrived on December 5th and so, like the previous student, here I am posting my own impressions and thoughts on the Pixalytics blog page.

My first day at Pixalytics started pretty badly, I got lost and arrived a little late. I now remind myself each morning to turn left, not right, when I get off the bus. I got a short introduction to the building where the company is located, and my office for the next three months, which by the way looks very good. The office has a professional, but relaxed, atmosphere and I soon started working, one of my first tasks being the downloading of Sentinel-2A data, which proved a very difficult one due to slow data speeds and functionality of the ESA Data Hub.

Over the next three months, I am expecting to assist Pixalytics in developing their agritech products, explore the potential of Sentinel-2A data and I will be doing my own research into Urban Sprawl in Romania. I am hoping to have the opportunity to present my research at a conference during my placement.

It has been over a week now since I came to Plymouth and I feel great, working at Pixalytics is a great opportunity for my career and I will take full advantage of this. I strongly recommend all students who want to burst their work experience and who want to see what it is like to be in a professional business environment, to search for Erasmus+ placement offers as I did. You will not regret it!

Blog written by Catalin Cimpianu

** Quote is by Tony Hassini, from ‘The Road To Success’