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Positive Psychology student reaches for the stars at European Astronaut Centre

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UEL graduate Dorota Filipowicz spent six months as an intern at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Germany,

A University of East London graduate spent six months as an intern at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, thanks to the help of the University’s School of Psychology, which offered her a bursary.

Dorota Elzbieta Filipowicz was thrilled to be able to take up the internship in 2018, while she was in her final year of studies at the University, completing her dissertation for her master’s degree in positive psychology and coaching psychology.

Dorota, 38, graduated in November 2018 after doing her course part-time over three years. She secured a bursary from the School of Psychology in return for offering to create a video about her experiences at EAC and come back to the University of East London and talk to students about her time there.

Dorota’s first taste of the wider galaxy was in 2016 at “space camp” – known officially as the Space Study Program at the International Space University,

Dorota said, “I have always been interested in space and my first opportunity to get involved in the space industry was for a summer programme. I went to Haifa in Israel for two months. That gave me a taste for the industry and I decided to go on and apply for EAC.”

During her internship at EAC, she met and worked with British astronaut Tim Peake, as well as a number of other astronauts from Europe and NASA.

Dorota said, “It was an amazing time of my life, being a space geek. I really loved it and enjoyed hanging out at work and listening to people’s stories about their work and life. There was a great spirit of camaraderie and the workplace was filled with buzz, inspiration and big dreams. I wish for more workplaces to share such a wonderful work atmosphere.

How does a postgraduate in positive psychology end up at a space centre? Dorota explained her unusual journey.

She said, “There are many interns at EAC and they come from a variety of backgrounds. Modern space exploration seeks expertise of people from engineering, humanities, arts, architecture, PR, medicine, computer sciences, social sciences… the list goes on.

“I was lucky to get a place working in the media lab there, where I took and edited photos and videos of astronauts, guests and created multimedia material for the use of the training division.”

Among her many tasks, Dorota helped to make videos of Tim Peake, including messages for events he was not able to attend in person.
The internship occurred right at the end of Dorota’s course, which meant she was doing research and writing her dissertation in the evenings and weekends after working at EAC all day - but that was a price worth paying.

She said, “From the moment you pass the threshold of EAC you will find yourself in a magical space filled with space station models, space related paraphernalia, people excited about their work in the industry and sharing their passion left and right. And you may also catch a glimpse of an astronaut!”

Dorota, who was born in Poland, has lived in the UK since 2004. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Bristol University before going on to do her master’s in positive psychology at UEL - “the perfect course” for her.

After graduating from the University of East London, Dorota moved to Gloucestershire to take a position at Bristol University as a residential life advisor.
She said, “I am now able to put what I learnt on my degree in positive psychology into action, providing wellbeing support and pastoral care.”