Camille Bilger

Camille Bilger, MPhys Astrophysics 2012,
Aerospace Design, Martin-Baker Aircraft Co

I grew up in Strasbourg, France, and moved to St Andrews in 2008 to study Physics and Astrophysics at the University of St Andrews. Thanks to my degree, the Physics and Astrophysics faculty, University societies, and St Andrews in general, I was able to learn about a wide range of new topics and stretch myself intellectually. This has all prepared me with skills which have resulted in being very useful throughout my life and professional career so far. The transition to university was for me, coming from a different country with a different language, anything but easy. Nevertheless, the counselling support of the Student Support Services and the Physics and Astronomy staff have been essential for my health and growth as a student through my degree.

Academia enchanted me while conducting my own research during my master thesis project on the investigation of hydrocarbon equilibrium and disequilibrium chemistry in the dusty atmospheres of oxygen-rich objects, such as Brown Dwarfs and giant gas planets. This project, supervised by Dr. Christiane Helling, was part of a European research effort to understand the electrification and chemistry in extraterrestrial atmospheres.

I soon became fascinated by astrophysical fluid dynamics, which includes blast waves, accretion, stellar winds and disk instabilities among others. I decided to transfer to the University of Cambridge in 2012 to study fluids in the context of the aerospace and power-generation sectors of industry. I undertook a comprehensive program of graduate teaching and research (M.Phil. in Energy Technologies), for which I was funded by an Airbus Group scholarship. In this broad program, students have the opportunity to learn and integrate multiple engineering disciplines.

I then pursued and completed my Ph.D. in 2017 in the Energy and Fluids group in the Department of Engineering of the University of Cambridge on the numerical simulation of liquid fuel injection and atomisation in jet engines (fluid dynamics/multiphase flow modelling) and improving combustion for which the complexity of the physics involved has curbed the research growth in the field. This Ph.D. was part of the University Gas Turbine Partnership between the University of Cambridge and Rolls-Royce plc. and gave me a first taste of an industrial client interaction.

I was one of the 2015 Amelia Earhart Research Fellows, which is a Fellowship awarded by Zonta International to Women in the Aerospace Industry. At their annual convention in 2016, I was invited to represent all Amelia Earhart Fellows and give a keynote speech to around 2,000 women, as seen in the picture above.

I feel hugely for all the organisations who have generously funded my research endeavours all these years, by putting trust in my abilities and research interests. As well as for the several sponsored awards from societies and international organisations, the first one of which being Selex Galileo who rewarded me the prize for the best Masters Astrophysics thesis back in St Andrews. They all have encouraged me to improve academically and pursue further research.

My current research and development job at Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. focuses on occupant modelling with particular interest in biodynamic modelling of the head/neck system and its dynamic response to an ejection scenario, which is still a missing link in effectively assessing the safety potential of ejection systems and their occupant. With the addition of small female aircrew to the ejection seat population, and with the addition of helmet mounted displays to ejection seat aircraft, the risk of neck injury has become one of the principle concerns to the ejection community. The goal of addressing significant scientific and practical issues of notable challenge in the aerospace industry while conducting innovative research is particularly rewarding. My role in the company feels very similar to my Ph.D. work. I need to be familiar with the research literature, my work is quite solitary but I need to interact as well with various departments within the company and with people outside the company. Our results will likely be presented at conferences and in journal articles.

My Ph.D. also gave me outreach opportunities alongside my research, such as teaching and STEM ambassador activities within Engineering and the local community. My wish to contribute to the system was prompted by my experience during my time in St Andrews where the Student Support Services made such an impact on my life. This is something I am continuing under the Martin-Baker banner.

First posted BDS 12.17