Astronaut candidate's profile
The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.
Sidey, Jennifer Anne MacKinnon
Where were you born?
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Where do you currently live?
Cambridge, United Kingdom
- Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – McGill University
- Ph.D., engineering – University of Cambridge
What is your current job?
Lecturer, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge - I study flames, how we use them, and how to stop them from emitting harmful pollutants. I also teach undergraduate and graduate students in the Fluids, Turbomachinery, and Energy division on topics ranging from conventional and alternative energy production to introductory thermodynamics or flame physics. Aside from these formal responsibilities, I always try to act as a role model for young women considering technical careers in science-related fields.
Why do you want to become an astronaut?
I want to become an astronaut because it provides an incredible challenge. It aligns with my interests in the advancement and application of science for the benefit of society. It will also provide me with a platform from which I may inspire a diverse group of young people to pursue their interests in science and engineering subjects.
What motivated you to study in your field?
I like to figure out how useful things work and, when I started studying engineering, I decided to study combustion because it is a fascinatingly complex process involving so many different phenomena. This complexity makes fire interesting and incredibly challenging to study. Beyond this specialization, I also knew academic research was the ideal job for me because it would mean I was always on the forefront of scientific discovery. I now have the opportunity to learn new things about useful combustion processes and apply what I know to make our energy and propulsion devices better.
Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?
The special teachers who still stand out in my mind were the ones who went out of their way to provide me with whatever I needed to build my interest and foster my curiosity in subjects that I enjoyed. One teacher in particular had a unique capability to find out exactly what would excite her students. That level of attention and effort to engage students stands out as the most encouraging and impactful instruction I've ever received.
What do you like best about your job?
My favourite part of my job is the interaction I have with students. Whether it's through supervision in the laboratory or lecture theatre, I have a wonderful opportunity to teach young people about science and engineering. This is, I believe, the most exciting, unique, and satisfying part of my job.
Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?
I look up to women who were early pioneers in engineering and science fields. These heroes include computer scientist Margaret Hamilton; astronauts Roberta Bondar, Julie Payette and Mae Jemison; and engineer Nancy Fitzroy. All of those women have had careers marked by bravery, skill, and incredible perseverance.
What is your favourite sci-fi movie?
What is your motto?
Fortune favours the brave.
What is the best career advice you've ever received?
The best advice I ever received was not to sweat the small stuff. In any career, there will be setbacks and difficult times. The best thing you can do is stay focused on a long-term goal and, even if it feels like you haven't progressed, make sure you don't get discouraged.
What is your most treasured possession?
Probably my bike!
What is your favourite place on Earth?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement so far has been getting a lectureship at the University of Cambridge. My success here is outstanding and something I never truly thought would happen when I first arrived in the UK five years ago as a newly graduated engineer.
What is your favourite book?
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino.
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