With the launch of the 2021 Young Graduate Trainee recruitment campaign, we’ve been talking to some of our current YGTs about the work they do, to give you a flavour of life at ESA and an idea of the range of opportunities currently on offer.
Today it’s the turn of 27-year-old Elsia Ndeckere-Ziangba, who was born in the Central African Republic and grew up in France. Elsia’s passion for human physiology and medical technologies led her to a YGT position in ESA’s space medicine team, that she describes as unconventional, educational and exciting!
Welcome Elsia! What do you do as a YGT, both in general and on a day-to-day basis?
Before, during and after a mission in space, astronauts have to perform physical assessments with exercise specialists and medical assessments with specialised doctors called flight surgeons. These assessments ensure the success of the mission and the health and wellbeing of the astronaut, and are often carried out using different systems or supports.
Ideally, we would have one platform on which we can complete and store all the assessments and visualise data with different data analysis tools. And that’s where I come in - my work is to configure the data management system in order to fulfil the needs of the space medicine team. On a day-to-day basis, I convert assessments into digital format, build dashboards to monitor astronaut health and provide training support and documentation for the database.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
In this job, I have really got to know the mission of the space medicine team, which includes many different professions (medical doctors, biomedical engineers, exercise specialists and researchers) and the enormous amount of work done in the background to ensure the success of a spaceflight.
The team is always looking for ways to innovate and improve human spaceflights, using new technologies and working on new scientific problems. In my role, I have the chance see behind the scenes in these investigations and am always learning new things. Even though I am a YGT, my team gave me responsibilities, trusted in my work and is open to new suggestions, so I can be creative and innovate too!
Although we are currently all working from home, you are usually based at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre. What is that like?
Working at EAC is fascinating. You can cross paths with an astronaut in the corridor! And there are lots of opportunities to meet the EAC community and have fun - when an astronaut is on mission, we celebrate their first weeks in space and their return to Earth with 'happy hour' events where the whole team can enjoy some relaxed moments after the hard work (we are the first ones to welcome ESA astronauts back to Europe). The last happy hour season was for the Beyond mission with Luca Parmitano.
Do you actually work with astronauts?
From day to day, no. I generally work with the flight surgeons and exercise specialists taking care of astronauts, they will be the ones using the data management system to save the astronauts’ data.
What did you study?
I did a Master’s degree in Health Information Technology at Polytech Grenoble - the engineering school of Grenoble INP and Grenoble-Alpes University. As one of my professors used to say, we are trained to become a link between the instrumentation and the medical world, and my YGT mission perfectly fits with this description, too.
Had you considered applying to ESA before you graduated?
I had never thought about working in the space field and I didn’t know that my studies could be compatible with space exploration. But when I heard about the space medicine team through an alumnus who works at EAC as an Astronaut Instructor, I was very curious and wanted to know more!
What will be your fondest memory of your YGT?
Probably taking part in Luca Parmitano’s landing. I used to watch astronaut landings on TV, to actually be part of it was thrilling! It was a very happy moment.
And what would be your one piece of advice to applicants?
Do not hesitate to apply! Make sure you find the mission that inspires you the most and matches your skills. Then, try your luck, be prepared and be yourself at the interview.
Apply now for the 2021 YGT opportunities!
The 2021 ESA YGT opportunities are now open for applications until 1 March. Positions are available in engineering, science, IT and business services. Find out more and apply now here.
More information about the YGT Programme (including employment conditions, eligibility criteria & selection process).