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Student learning that is out of this world

15th February 2019

Northumbria University students have been given the chance to talk to a European astronaut and one of the world’s leading aerospace medical experts as part of an exciting lecture.

Dr Andrew Winnard, who is part of the University’s Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory, delivered the interactive session to final-year applied sports science students, focusing on the topic of biomechanics in space.

He introduced students to guest speaker, Professor Simon Evetts, who talked about his journey from being a sport student at Northumbria University, to becoming medical projects lead at the European Space Agency (ESA). For eight years he supported Europe’s astronauts in space and now leads an extreme environments research company here in the UK, called Blue Abyss. Simon also worked very closely with UK astronaut Tim Peake.

He was then joined live via telecom by Romanian cosmonaut, General Dorin Prunariu, who flew as part of an eight-day space mission aboard a Soviet spacecraft and the famous Salyut Space Laboratory – the world’s first space station – in 1981.

“This lecture was about bringing astronauts and one of the world’s leading medical scientists from the aerospace industry to talk to our students so they could see the real-world impact our research has,” said Andrew. “We invited Simon to talk in person to the students about his work and that was followed by a live Skype call with Dorin. After which, students could ask both guests questions about their work. For those students who didn’t feel comfortable asking questions out loud in the classroom, there was the option to Tweet their questions anonymously and they would be answered.

"We’re able to establish these relationships with exciting guest speakers through networking and attending events. We work with the ESA on a lot of research projects, so we are able to build and maintain relationships with astronauts and medical staff.”

Research-led teaching, bringing a network of world-leading researchers into the classroom, was a key feature in Andrew’s lecture, showing students the steps involved in producing their own research project, from planning and implementation to communicating their findings in an exciting and engaging way.

Kieran Spencer, 21, an applied sports science with coaching student, said the lecture was inspiring. “The way Andrew puts presentations together is always engaging and interactive for students,” he said. “For me personally, it was hugely beneficial to hear from Simon who discovered one of the medical methods that I’m studying as part of my dissertation, ‘Comparison of CPR methods in simulated micro-gravity.’  As a space dissertation student with the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Kieran also had the opportunity to sit and talk one-to-one with Simon about his dissertation work.

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