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Helia Sharif

What is your current job?

I am a graduate student in aerospace and mechanical engineering and a research assistant in the Space Engineering Exploration Group at Carleton University. My research is focused on developing an autonomous rock classification system to be applied on the next generation of rovers. Using vision algorithms and classification techniques, I am training the system to extract rock characteristics from images and independently identifying the rock samples.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I really liked math and physics in high school. Hence, when I was applying to University, I chose to study engineering because it allowed me to combine my knowledge of both fields to solve problems.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Not only do I love that I’m contributing to a project that someday might be sent to another planet where no human has been before, but the research challenges me every day to creatively solve problems that lie ahead.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

This year, I will spend the evening with a group of friends collaborating to plan two upcoming major milestones: the 50th anniversary of first women in space and 52nd anniversary of first human in space. I hope that the event will inspire more to become involved on this field.

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Go for it! Find your passion, whatever it might be, and pursue it. When you love what you do, you won’t mind putting up with any challenge that gets thrown your way. As a result, you’re more likely to overcome the obstacles and succeed in your goal. I love being able to contribute to the space community and to be able to explore new places. I also like creatively solving problems. I hope that you can reach your dreams and pursue whatever you wish to accomplish.

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Helia Sharif is a graduate student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program at Carleton University. Contributing to the vision team, she is responsible for the design of an autonomous geologist that will replace how the next generation of planetary exploration rovers will process and communicate the information.

Helia’s passion for space robotics has exposed her to a broad range of opportunities in the past. For example, after completing a Space Studies Program at the International Space University, she had the unique opportunity of working at the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Advanced Concepts Team. While expanding her expertise at ESA, she developed an evolved distributed vision algorithm, inspired by nature, for training the future rovers to autonomously navigate and path plan.

Moreover, as the Field Support Engineer working in the Arctic, Helia has provided assistance on NASA’s K-10 Rovers, Hamilton Sundstand Space Suits, and the Canadian Space Agency’s Operation Space Medicine in the past. She is currently working towards her solo skydiving certificate and private pilot license, and holds an open water scuba diving license.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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