Thu 15 Feb 18
Essex graduate Anushree Srivastava has been chosen as a finalist in the British Council Alumni Awards for her outstanding contributions to space exploration research including helping to find out what it might be like to live and work on Mars.
Anushree, from India, completed a Masters in Biotechnology at Essex in 2016 and said her experience at Essex helped pave the way for her dream job in astrobiology.
She said: "I love space exploration, however my journey from a small town in North India to Britain chasing my love, my dream, was not easy."
After completing a Bachelors of Arts in Ancient Indian History and Anthropology and Master of Arts in Anthropology at Lucknow University; Anushree felt herself drawn to a career in science and was inspired by a magazine article on Dr Terry McGenity from our School of Life Sciences.
She said: "The biggest turning point in my life was reading about Dr McGenity's research on ancient signs of life buried in salt deposits. This was mind-boggling astrobiology research he was conducting!"
Anushree applied for a place at Essex and was offered the Master of Science programme where she gained practical knowledge inside a lab.
She said: "Essex gave me hands-on research experience in a geomicrobiology lab, looking for signs of past or present life trapped inside crystals. I developed the skills needed to investigate microbial life in extreme, high-salt environments."
The knowledge she gained helped her secure the position of crew biologist on The Mars Society's 160 Twin Desert-Artic Analog Mission. The objective was to simulate a real mission to Mars which meant adapting to extreme living conditions and learning how to carry out scientific research on the red planet.
The team spent 80 days in the Utah Desert, 30 days on Devon Island in Canada and a polar desert inside the Arctic Circle.
She said: "We lived in the research stations, completely isolated and immersed in life with our crewmates. We performed extra-vehicular activities (EVA) in heavy space suits and conducted scientific operations which were physically demanding."
This long-term simulation played a pivotal role in understanding the complexities of conducting science operations on Mars; and Anushree's dedication to the mission did not go unnoticed.
She has been part of Spaceward Bound expeditions in India in a high altitude cold desert and United Kingdom in a kilometre deep salt mine, in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
In 2017 Anushree was awarded Mars 160 Volunteer of the Year and she plans to become part of a doctoral program to develop her astrobiology skills and contribute to the future exploration of Mars.
She has some words of advice for those struggling to achieve their career goals.
"Find your passion and do what you love no matter how difficult things appear at first.," she said."Never consider any work insignificant - you don't know where that little step will end up. Follow your heart and reach for the stars!"
The British Council Alumni Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of alumni and showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education. Last year we had the highest number of finalists shortlisted outside the Russell Group.
This year the British Council received 1,700 alumni applications in total from 125 countries representing 140 british higher education Institutes.