Friday, 19 April 2024
Professional experience
  • Professor of Mathematics Applied to Aerospace Engineering
    at Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Aeronáutica y del Espacio
    of the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
  • Director of the Aerospace Science and Operations Research Group.
  • Coordinator of the AEROMATIN
    (Aerospace, Mathematics and Innovation) Educational Innovation Group.

Despertando la curiosidad

When July starts there is always someone who says “You are so lucky, two months of vacations!” To which I reply “No, I only have one month of vacations, I work in July,” and every year I get the same answer: “But there are no more classes... what do you do?” And here is the core of the matter!: how will society understand the importance of research in a country’s development if most don’t even know what we do at the university?
Luckily, there is a growing understanding of the importance of science and technology in all aspects of human development, and thanks to this, research is starting to gain the importance it deserves in society. But, even if today there are many who are interested in space related studies, most still believe that this kind of research is only performed by NASA, and they still don’t see the connection with the work you do at the university.
Unfortunately, the media does not give enough visibility to the research performed at the university and, in general, people are oblivious about its important contribution to science and technology. And even though it seems evident that the media should encourage that knowledge, why are most interviews you see on television with actors, singers or soccer players? Don’t researchers have anything interesting to say? Of course they do, but you have to get people interested and feeling curious about what scientists have to tell.
Nowadays there is a growing trend toward using learning-based, project-based, challenge-based and research-based educational Innovation techniques.
It may not be easy to explain, just to give you an example, that you are researching the development of algorithms based on artificial intelligence to control the attitude of satellites. But if you make it enjoyable and without delving into technical details, people get interested on it and, instead of asking you what it is you work on when you are not giving lessons, they ask you what it is you are researching and in which projects you are involved.
However, the most concerning thing is that this lack of knowledge about the research performed at the university is something that is experienced by many of our students. When students start collaborating with our research group to fulfill their curricular practices or to do their senior or master’s thesis, they often tell us that they had no idea that, in addition to teaching classes, we do research, let alone what it is we research.
This is why it is so important to reinvent education, integrate active learning to classrooms and foster interest for learning and researching among students. Nowadays there is a growing trend toward using learning-based, project-based, challengebased and research-based educational innovation techniques.
In general, any activity where students get actively involved considerably boosts their motivation, the teacher student relationship and, what is more important, it piques their interest and their will to learn and know. It is true that all of these methods require more effort by students and teachers, but the experience is usually much more gratifying for both sides when compared to lessons exclusively revolving around master classes.
From the teachers’ side, most are willing to go that extra mile, despite the fact that it requires much more dedication and maybe it is what is most important and the students are unaware of, even if that work is not valued from an institutional standpoint. Currently, these kinds of activities are not valued, for the most part, in teacher accreditation processes, since the most important thing is to publish scientific papers in major journals and take part in research projects.
You have to get people interested and feeling curious about what scientists have to tell"
But if no value is placed on the importance of these teaching methods that bring research closer to the students, it will be hard to get society to place value on the research efforts made at the university.
When students get involved in the research activities, the experience usually turns out to be very good. Many students discover their research calling and see their curiosity ignited, which is something they will never lose. In fact, many become interested in pursuing their PhD and starting a professional career at the university.
The problem arises when you explain a student who has just completed a Master’s in aerospace engineering program the low pay and job insecurity that awaits if they want to get into research. And, unfortunately, for most though I would like this story to have a happy ending, here is where it all ends!

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