Elise Allthorpe-Mullis
28 Jan 2019



Project Manager in the Technology Development Division


​​​​​​​​​Elise in her first few months at RAL Space in 2017


How did you get into your job?

I'm on the graduate scheme at RAL Space. I did a Masters degree at UCL in Space Science and Engineering and after I graduated I applied to lots of different graduate schemes at various engineering companies. I was particularly interested in working in the space sector - RAL Space was one of my top two choices so I applied for the graduate scheme and here I am.

What is your role?

I'm a project manager which means that I lead a team of mostly engineers, sometimes scientists as well, on a project. Those projects are usually to develop, design and test a piece of instrumentation for a spacecraft like a science instrument or camera. Sometimes we test a whole spacecraft or a piece of a spacecraft for another company down in our big environmental testing vacuum chambers. This is where we can simulate the space environment and make sure that the spacecraft and any instruments on the spacecraft are able to survive in space.

What's the best thing about your job?

That I get to be involved in all the different areas of a project- I get to be involved in every step of the design and development of a spacecraft or instrument for a spacecraft.

I get to use communication and team working skills a lot as a project manager and get to be quite hands on if I want to be.

Within the first two weeks of starting here, I was in the clean room helping to test an instrument which was worth a lot of money so it was quite scary but an amazing experience to have almost as soon as I started in the job.  

Why is it important you do what you do?

What I do is important because, whilst you need the scientists to come up with all these amazing theories and ideas and you need the specialist engineers to design, build and test everything that comes into their imagination, you need a project manager to make sure that these things actually ever happen.

We are in charge of scheduling, finance, time management, customer satisfaction and co-ordinating the engineers and teams across the whole project. We are the go to between all the different engineering teams and without us, it would all be a bit of a mess.​

What advice would you give to people looking for a job in your industry?

If you want to work in the space industry, it's a really good idea to study something like Engineering, Maths or Physics because that will give you the background in everything that we do. My background is in Physics and Engineering so when engineers talk to me about what they're doing and what they're doing next, it's not all gibber-ish. Having that background either through an apprenticeship or a degree would be a good idea.

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self now?

​I'd probably tell my younger self that I would've enjoyed engineering as a degree possibly more than physics, not that there was anything wrong with physics but engineering is a bit more hands on which I enjoy.

When I was young I didn't know what engineering was, I thought it was about fixing cars. I wish someone had told me how creative engineering is, and how it's designing new ideas and building things and its really exciting and artistic - I would've enjoyed doing that.

I would also tell my younger self my jeans were too baggy- far too baggy!

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1990- The year I wanted to be a fairy, or maybe a hairdresser​


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1998- The year I got a great physics teacher who demonstrated the laws of physics using buckets of water and shopping trolleys

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2016 – The year I finished my MSc in Space Science and Engineering

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2017 – The year I got my first job in the space industry and joined RAL Space​

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2018 – The year I got to help test spacecraft instrumentation in the cleanroom