3D visualisation of a mine: A geology adventure as a Catapult SPINtern

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Harry Herniman, who recently graduated in geology, says there are wide-ranging benefits of undertaking a space industry placement.

Throughout my teenage years, as most young people find themselves doing, I was forever changing my mind regarding what I wanted to do as a career. First it was graphic design, then architecture, so it was inevitable I would end up doing an undergraduate degree in… geology. I chose to study something I didn’t know a lot about, but I liked the idea of learning more about the origin and development of our landscape.

Fast forward three years, and I can’t imagine studying anything more interesting. I think of myself as very lucky in this respect, as I now have a real passion for the study of Earth and environmental sciences.

Throughout my degree, especially towards the end, most students were leaning towards the oil and gas sector and a career in engineering. For me, the unit that interested me most, and what I achieved the highest grades for, was in geological remote sensing and GIS. I wasn’t exposed to the space sector much, but this was enough to spark an interest – especially in the downstream application of satellite imagery.

As the last few months of my final year drew ever closer, I decided I wanted to capitalise on a new-found interest and area of study for the summer. Whilst actively searching for work placements and experience in remote sensing, I came across the Space Placements in INdustry (SPIN) programme. After researching the scheme, I realised it was exactly what I was looking for – a well-respected programme to help bridge the gap between academia and valuable industry experience.

As a result of applying to a few of the opportunities they had advertised, I was invited for an interview at the Satellite Applications Catapult, and subsequently offered a placement to work on a project that I couldn’t have tailored more to my interests, even if I had tried.

My task was to build a lightweight 3D visualisation over a specific mine located in central Chile, and then demonstrate multiple remote sensing products for market engagement, including the creation of a video. I was able to present my project to the Catapult’s Earth Observation team, as well as a brief overview to the rest of the company. The model/visualisation will be shared with several mining companies to demonstrate how the application of satellite imagery can assess the environmental and societal parameters associated with mining activities.

Throughout this placement, I was able to expand on academic knowledge, learn new skills and gain more experience in commercial software, understand how the industry works, and so much more. I now feel that I have a much broader range of skills coupled with the fantastic connections I have made that have ultimately made me more confident and determined to pursue a career in the space sector.

Looking forward, I now have plans for postgraduate study in Geographical Information Systems, for which I was awarded a scholarship for by my university. I firmly believe this experience will form the basis for an interesting and exciting career in the space industry.