Bengt Johlander

Bengt Johlander

Swedish, Research and Development Engineer/Physicist, based at ESTEC

I began my university studies with mathematics, philosophy and music. However, after some time I realised that I was more interested in physics and technology so I decided to study Engineering Physics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden where I obtained my masters degree. I chose this because it offered a wide range of subjects and gave a solid theoretical basis as well as a broad technical education.

I prepared my MSc in semiconductor physics with a Swedish company that made integrated circuits. After graduation they offered me a job and later decided to support my PhD studies. However, half way through my PhD I was offered a young graduate trainee position at ESTEC where I spent over a year as a trainee in Product Assurance and Safety before being offered a permanent position as a Radiation Effects Engineer.

In the beginning my job was mainly technical but gradually it became directed more towards spacecraft projects. After about six years in this job I decided I wanted to expand my horizons and go into actually developing and building flight hardware. That is why I applied for my present post as a Research and Development Engineer/Physicist.

My department provides scientific support for projects and acts as a link to the scientific community as well as performing scientific research. As Head of the Flight Instrument Support Group my job is to conduct research and coordinate the design and manufacture of scientific instruments. This involves coordinating resources and developing instruments here at ESTEC, and interfacing with scientists, suppliers, engineering staff and colleagues working in other institutes.

This is one of the few departments at ESA that actually produces flight hardware in-house. Since 1995 I have been involved in producing 11 different flight instruments for a number of ESA and other international missions. I am pleased to say that all those launched have worked! The reason we have been quite successful in making instruments is that the department has many years of experience in this work on which we can build. I have learnt a lot myself during the years I have spent here.

I enjoy my job because I find it creative: a problem arises and I have to work out what is wrong and then try and fix it, keeping in mind the harsh environment in space. It is also very satisfying to see a physical end product as a result of my work and that of my group. Certainly it rewarding to see data coming back from an instrument somewhere in the Solar System after having seen it develop from a concept to a product that you can hold in your hands.

To do my job you need a sound educational background in engineering so it is good to go as far as you can with your studies. You also need curiosity and patience, as the projects we work on are long term. For the rest it is a question of experience and learning on the job, in fact it remains a continuous learning process and that is what it makes it so interesting.

If I were asked why I like working here then my answer would be that I enjoy working in an organisation that is active in so many different areas. I enjoy the scientific, educational, social and cultural aspects of working at ESA.

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