Natalia Larrea Brito

Natalia Larrea Brito
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Aerospace Engineering
Principal Investigators: Dr. William Warmbrodt and Larry Young

My Story:

‘Natalia, stop playing with that and go to bed’. I still remember when I used to play for hours and hours as a child with the planetarium I got for Christmas. Back then, I started to read and watch documentaries about space and technology. The more I read, the more fascinated I was. Since then, this fascination has only grown stronger during all these years leading me to where I am today: a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering in Canada, supported by one of the most distinguished scholarships from Spain, after having participated in a traineeship at the European Space Agency (ESA), and now with the realization of a lifelong dream of being part of NASA Academy!

In 2010, I received my MSc in Telecommunications (Electrical) Engineering at Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio in Spain. During my first year I had the chance to visit the installations of ESA in Madrid. I still remember the feeling of being there and wishing that I could be part of that someday. What I could not imagine was that life would bring me the opportunity to work there years later.

For the last year of my degree, I decided to study abroad. I wanted to acquire more international experience and specialization, which is why I went to École Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada. There, I specialized in space technologies and developed my final thesis. My research contributed to the validation of an innovative microwave tomography system for breast cancer detection, a future non-invasive alternative to the current mammography system.

I finished my degree but my desire of learning more about space continued to grow. I had always been interested in astrophysics so I decided it was time to learn about space from a more scientific point of view. Therefore, I studied the program in Astronomy and Planetary Science at The Open University UK, which I completed in 2012. It was that year when I saw one of my biggest wishes come true: I was selected for the ESA trainee program at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC). During my traineeship I had the opportunity to work in the Herschel Space Observatory team. My project consisted in the development of different methods for the generation of high-fidelity galaxy catalogues. Besides, ESA invited me to present my work at the HIPE Forum in Germany, one of the largest forums of the Herschel mission. After my traineeship, I got a short contract with the Herschel Community Support Group to generate statistics on all related publications about the mission.

That same year, I was honored to receive one of the most prestigious scholarships in Spain (La Caixa Fellowship) to pursue postgraduate studies in Canada in 2012-2014. Only five students are awarded this scholarship nationally amongst all disciplines. This is how I came to McGill University where I am currently studying towards a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Now I have been given the chance of a lifetime to be a part of NASA Academy. There, I will have the opportunity to work with some of the best space related young professionals and continue growing professionally in this high performance context. Thanks to ESA’s sponsorship and the continuous, unconditional support of my family, friends, and all those who have believed in me through all these years, my biggest dream has now become reality.

I know now, more than ever, that I want to continue my career in the space field. After my time at NASA Academy and when I have finished my master, I would like to continue with a PhD in Space Engineering. I hope one day to be able to count myself as one of those lucky enough to have a career at ESA or NASA.

My Interests:

My passion for space is also shared with a variety of activities in my free time. One of the things I enjoy the most is to express my creativity by writing short stories, drawing and performing puppet theatre shows for children. One of my near-future projects is to create a group to make a YouTube show that explains the basic concepts of space and science with puppets for kids. In addition, I enjoy travelling, volunteering, reading, cinema, crafts and doing sport (gym, self-defense and pilates).