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No Ordinary Nine to Five

A job titles go, ‘UK Space Expert’ is one which is pretty unique, not to mention impressive. Some might even go as far as to say it sounds a little out of this world…

However, it’s the official role held by Dhara Patel, the National Space Centre’s newest recruit.

The award-winning Leicester attraction has appointed Ms Patel as its new Space Expert, a role which will see her responsible for supporting the facility’s schools and education programme.

Picture: National Space Centre

Part of her job description will also be to help identify high profile space sector guest speakers, and to serve as the lead spokesperson for UK space and astronomy-related media enquiries.

So how exactly does someone become a ‘Space Expert’ and what has led Dhara down this extra-ordinary career path?

“When I was younger I was always interested in Maths and Science. I was always told to follow my passions so that’s what I did, even though I didn’t necessarily know what kind of career it could lead to,” said the 31-year-old, who grew up in Leicester.

“I went to the University of Leeds and achieved a Masters in Physics, and while I was there I realised I didn’t want to go down the research route,” she added.

“However, I really liked talking about Science, and the things that I was learning, particularly the space aspect which I found fascinating”.

This realisation led to Dhara doing a PGCE and then going on to complete two years of teaching at South Wigston High School.

Following this, she moved to London in 2016 to work at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, in a range of astronomy education roles.

However, Dhara is happy to be back in Leicester, and is grateful for her new role as in the city which has an extremely exciting future in the space industry.

“I feel very, very fortunate that I’ve landed in the position that I am. This isn’t a job for me, this is a passion. The bonus is that I get paid for it!” she told Pukaar.

“I absolutely love to talk about space, and this role essentially means that I am tasked with keeping up to date with what’s happening in the world of space and astronomy, and then to be able to share that with staff and visitors is just amazing.

“In my opinion, Leicester is definitely the place to be for anyone who’s interested in space and astronomy”, she added.

“There’s just so much happening here; the University of Leicester, the National Space Centre, the Space Park…It’s somewhere that’s really at the forefront of leading some of the exciting research and the progress that’s happening in the industry at the moment. I feel very lucky to be here amongst it all”.