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Lumen Summer 2011 Issue
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Kimberley's Stellar Career

Australia's space industry was given a huge boost with the 2009-2010 Federal Budget announcement of a $40 million Australian Space Research Program - the first such funding for nearly two decades. Graduate Dr Kimberley Clayfield helped make it happen.

The Australian space industry owes a vote of thanks to writers Anne McCaffrey and Orson Scott Card. Science fiction created the spark which turned Dr Kimberley Clayfield towards studies and research in engineering and then a career in space industry policy.

"My real passion is space, which I think in large part is due to the many science fiction books I read when I was younger, but I was also inspired by astronomy lessons in my high school science classes and I'm still fascinated by deep space exploration," said Dr Clayfield, who graduated with Honours in Mechanical Engineering in 1999 and a PhD in 2005.

"My degree helped link my interest in space and science with professional skills that could potentially be applied to many different space-related applications."

Those skills and a deepening interest in space policy development led Dr Clayfield to a role with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in the Advanced Manufacturing and Space Policy section. She then moved to her current role as Executive Manager of Space Sciences and Technology within CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science Division.

They also led to her being named by Engineers Australia as one of Australia's Most Inspiring Young Engineers in 2010.

In the citation, Engineers Australia described Dr Clayfield as "an inspiration to her fellow engineers".

"She has moved from research into the realms of federal space industry policy to become a leader of space-related activities within Australia's premier national scientific and industrial research organisation, CSIRO," said Engineers Australia.

Dr Clayfield played a key role in the development of the 2009 policy proposal to Federal Cabinet which resulted in the establishment of the $40 million Australian Space Research Program, a four-year competitive funding program to support the development of Australian space capabilities.

This was the first dedicated funding for the space sector since the early 1990s, and it has provided vital stimulus to the national space industry and raised awareness among policy-makers of the importance of space technology in today's society.

In her current role at CSIRO, Dr Clayfield co-ordinates and supports the organisation's space science activities, which include earth observation satellites, radioastronomy, and advanced space-related technologies and applications.

She also facilitates CSIRO's engagement in space policy and education, liaising with domestic partners including government, universities and industry, and with the international space community.

Dr Clayfield was recently awarded the CSIRO Chief Executive's Study Award, enabling her to complete an Executive MBA through the International Space University, based in France.

She is optimistic about the future of Australia's space sector.

"One of Australia's key space-related capabilities is in using satellite-derived earth observation data to generate information about the environment - for applications including weather forecasting, carbon accounting, water and other natural resource monitoring, minerals exploration, and disaster management," she said.

"Australia produces some world-leading science in this area and, at the moment, one of the main focuses for me is enhancing and leveraging CSIRO's and Australia's earth observation capabilities to provide maximum national benefit into the future, including enhancing our involvement in the international space community."

A further key opportunity for Australia is its involvement in the international Square Kilometre Array project, a e1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) radio-astronomy facility that will be one of the most ambitious global science projects ever realised.

"CSIRO leads the Australia-New Zealand involvement in the project, and I am looking forward to getting more involved in this incredibly exciting science project in the next few years," Dr Clayfield said.

Another of Dr Clayfield's passions is science education. She keeps in regular contact with the University's School of Mechanical Engineering and is "very pleased" with the growth in aerospace engineering over the past few years.

She is the Program Director of two annual residential programs for high school students: the South Australian Space School - a three-day program for Year 10 students from around South Australia - and National Space Camp Woomera - a five-day program for Year 11 students from all over Australia.

"Each program generally takes about 40 talented and enthusiastic students and shows them a sample of some of the fascinating space-related science and technology being undertaken in Australia," she said.

"If Australia is to continue to be the 'clever country' and make world-class contributions in science, engineering and technology, we need to encourage children to understand and love science and maths, and to pursue careers that use these skills," she said.

"Using space as a medium for applying science and maths is a great way to interest and inspire young people." ■

Story Robyn Mills

Dr Kimberley Clayfield at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, managed by CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science on behalf of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Dr Kimberley Clayfield at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, managed by CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science on behalf of NASA's Deep Space Network.
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