4 mins read 23 May 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Dr Jane Hodgkinson

Women play a huge role in the Australian space sector, and each week will be sharing the story of an inspiring woman who makes our community so special.

Dr Jane Hodgkinson - Research scientist and geologist in CSIRO Mineral Resources. Credit: Supplied.

In March each year we not only celebrate International Women’s Day but we also enjoy learning about all the contributions women have made to society during Women’s History Month. Originally started in the US in 1987, it has in recent times, in part due to social media, become more well known across the world. 

As a celebration of all the wonderful work, inspiration and support that women across our region do in the space sector, will be speaking to a new women in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.

Dr Jane Hodgkinson - Research scientist and geologist in CSIRO Mineral Resources.

What is your role at Australia's national science agency, CSIRO?

I'm a geologist and my work largely focuses on circular economy and sustainable mining. In space, this means how we can find resources for long term space missions without wasting Earth's resources by flying everything to space, while also treading very carefully in the pristine environments of other planets and moons.

I am also a fellow of the Geological Society (London, UK), and a member of AusIMM (Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy), the ASEG (Australian Society of Geophysicists) and the Geological Society of Australia. I am particularly interested in geohazards including earthquakes and volcanoes and I am an amateur astronomer and am interested in anything spacey! I own several typewriters and I masquerade in my free time as a fiction writer.

How did you end up working in the space sector and what drew you to it?

I am very, fortunately, working in a mining division in our Research Organisation with people who were reaching out to find out more about in situ resource utilisation (ISRU). It grabbed my interest, being a bit of a space-geek. 

Finding out more about our sibling planets and Moons fascinates me - the basis of geology is how particles coalesce and the journeys they go on through unending processes. Planetary geological science through hands-on exploration will be immense and it's an honour to be part of the 'early days' in its history.

What advice would you give to people looking to start their career in the Australian space industry, whether they are new graduates or those looking to move their careers over?

Think big, but also find your focus - it could drift too, but try things out. 

There are enormous possibilities, so many unsolved problems but a massive body of knowledge already available to build on - while the Australian Space Agency is new, the industry here, and research too, already has valuable pedigree and you can be part of it. 

Get in there!

Valentina Tereshkova, Soviet cosmonaut, became the first woman to fly to space when she launched on the Vostok 6 mission June 16, 1963. Credit: NASA.

Which women in the history of the Space Industry do you look up to? What was it about their achievements that resonated with you?

Difficult to pick just one - but I have to say Valentina Tereshkova would be someone I look up to (or would have done 48 times as it goes - since she orbited Earth that many times)! And back when she did that, technologies were not what they are today! 

What do you think are some of the issues faced by women in the space sector and how do you think they should be resolved?

Issues may only be perception-based, what a job might be like, what future jobs might offer, it's an evolving area and growing industry. 

But it will be what we make it. The skills that are needed, the engineering, the science, all can all be done by women and men alike, there is nothing to stop women really. Just get involved, enrolled there are courses out there that are based in terrestrial industries which are valuable too.

What has been your most interesting discovery or been the most interesting space-related project you have worked on or been part of?

Being part of working groups with international Space Agencies, late at night, discussing opportunities and hearing about developments is a constant thrill - seriously - I am constantly loving it! 

What are you most excited about in the coming years for the Australian Space Industry?

Seeing Australian technologies - payloads - going to the Moon! Landing it on the lunar surface - I think that's going to be mind-blowing!