Did you know that a Belfast mathematician works in NASA?


Dr Caoimhe Rooney from in Belfast works at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in the United States.

The 31-year-old is hoping her ability with numbers will add up to her one day becoming an astronaut.

If she succeeds, Dr Rooney could become the first person to boldly go where no person from Belfast has ever boldly gone before.

But, as one of more than 22,000 applicants for four positions on the European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Corps – well, you don’t have to have a maths PhD to know it’s a bit of a long shot.

Dr Rooney, who has a PhD in applied mathematics from Oxford University, is involved in looking at how distant planets were formed, what they are made of and whether they could sustain life.

The former student of Sullivan Upper School in Holywood, County Down, works in the planetary system branch of Nasa looking at planets outside of our solar system.

She wants to dispel the myth that maths is boring and prove that it really is “the language of our universe”.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Dr Rooney said that after initially falling out of love with the subject, it was a very special teacher – Mrs Anderson – who reignited her passion in calculus.

“It wasn’t until GSCE when I got a really amazing teacher who reinstilled that love of maths, who showed me I could do it and more importantly that it was a lot of fun,” she said.

Dr Rooney then went on to study pure maths at Trinity College Dublin before studying for her PhD at Oxford.

She then set out to find a job that combined her two greatest passions – maths and space.

“Growing up I loved space, but there wasn’t many obvious opportunities for a profession in that here in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“I started looking at opportunities in Nasa, thinking: ‘You know what, I’ll just go all in.’

“And I found that they were actually looking for mathematical modellers.

“The role was right up my alley and I just had to convince them that I had the mathematical capabilities to do what they wanted.”

Dr Rooney’s role at Nasa involves researching planets outside of our solar system, also known as Exoplanets.


Source: Nasa: Belfast mathematician working towards her astronaut dream – BBC News