Queen Mary University of London: Queen Mary alumnus on the road to becoming an astronaut

Dr Hualca-Tigsilema holds a degree in aerospace engineering from Queen Mary and is currently a researcher at Imperial College London specialising in secondary air systems for turbomachinery, which he combines alongside his training in the ESA.

The performance tests he has completed so far consisted of seven categories – verbal reasoning, space orientation, psychology, math, physics, engineering and flight simulation. The tests themselves are extremely challenging – with Dr Hualca-Tigsilema being one of only 7% managing to pass to the next stage.

Commenting on his progress, Dr Hualca-Tigsilema said: “I’m really happy with how it has gone so far. I want to become an astronaut because I believe one day we will inhabit another planet, and I want to play a role in it. At the moment astronauts and space agencies need all the help they can get.

“I’ve been fortunate that my studies have helped prepare me in part for the experience, including my time at Queen Mary which gave me the right tools to succeed.

“I would advise anyone thinking of doing something similar to never give up on their dreams.”

Speaking of his time at Queen Mary, Dr Hualca-Tigsilema added that he chose to study at the University because of its student atmosphere and academic reputation – offering the degree in aerospace engineering he needed as part of his career aspirations.

The requirements to advance to the testing phase are highly rigorous, with very strict criteria in place and a wealth of competition applying to the programme – 22,523 people in the first instance. Queen Mary medical student Nina Purvis, who has a PhD in Physics, was also selected as one of the UK candidates – one of only 77 British women – a significant achievement given the requirements and her being younger than the previous average age.

Dr Purvis said: “I was very proud to have been selected to attend the testing in Hamburg. It was an unforgettable experience, and I learned so much about myself from it and enjoyed meeting the other candidates.

“Getting as far as I did has definitely given me enough motivation and encouragement to continue being involved in human spaceflight as a medic, scientist, or otherwise. I’d certainly try again when the next call opens!”

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