Max Scherer

Master of Chemical Physics 2017

Your Time at the University

My time in Edinburgh and at the University has to include some of my most fond memories and formative experiences. The friends I made and the skills I learned over the five years will be with me for the rest of my life; and will always be rooted in Edinburgh.

I chose Edinburgh for its unique Chemical Physics programme, a keystone interdisciplinary subject accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics. The city itself, one of my favourites, made the decision even easier. Throughout my time at the University I had great support and intellectual inspiration from staff and colleagues.

Max Scherer

Highlights along the way include:

  • The adventures of the Mountaineering Club. Every 2nd weekend we would pack into a minibus to go explore some wild and remote part of Scotland. Learning to climb has taken me around the world to some amazing places.
  • My year in industry at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US; where I built laser optics systems for Brillouin spectroscopy instrumentation and ran atomistic simulations. This was my first real taste of independent scientific research.

My Master’s project with the Eleanor Campbell group, developing a technique to isolate nanoparticles in the gas phase by ablating metal surfaces using nanosecond and ultra-short femtosecond laser pulses.

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

I am currently working at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands; the ESTEC site in Noordwijk is the technical heart of ESA.

As a Space Systems Engineer YGT with the ExoMars project I support the verification and testing of the ExoMars Spacecraft Composite which is planned for launch to Mars in 2022. The principal goal of the ExoMars mission is to search for signs of past or present life on Mars. As we prepare for launch from Baikonur in 2022 the ExoMars systems and procedures must be tested and verified to the limit to ensure they can cope with the extremes of space.

Another aspect of my job is the simulation of Rover operations on the surface for mission planning with the Rover Operations Control Centre scientists and engineers. Each day of science operations on the surface is incredibly valuable and the resource consumption of the Rover (e.g. power, data links, time) must be optimised. Working together with the project scientists who coordinate the science objectives is a great experience and allows me to have a foot in both the science and engineering camp.

Before starting at ESA, I worked with the AIT Team at Thales Alenia Space UK, assembling and testing MicroCarb – a joint British/French Earth observation satellite which will measure greenhouse gas fluxes in the atmosphere. This is one of many examples of how space technology can improve life on Earth, in this case helping us better understand and combat climate change.

Before working at TAS, and following my graduation from Edinburgh, I travelled to Turin in Northern Italy to do a specialising Masters in Space Systems Engineering (SEEDS) at the Politecnico di Torino. SEEDS is a programme focused on the human and robotic exploration of space and on the related missions, systems, and technologies.

Alumni Wisdom

The same advice I gave my younger sister when she started at UoE earlier this year:

Seize the opportunity: go out and gain new experiences, meet interesting people, do various internships, join exciting clubs, learn a lot, from different sources. Enjoy it!

But also, there will be times when you feel overwhelmed, especially as you do so many new things for the first time. There are always people you can turn to for support: family, friends, and people at the University. Remember to give yourself rest sometimes, both physically and mentally.