In this episode, Courtney introduces herself, why she’s started a podcast about space and the mildly embarrassing reason she decided to become a scientist.
Find images to accompany this episode on Instagram @ineedspacepodcast.
Intro and outro music: “Ticking Away” by Cranston (used under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License)
Hello and welcome to I Need Space, the podcast for people who… just need a bit more space. My name’s Courtney and you’re listening to episode zero. So this is just going to be a bit of an introduction to the podcast: what it’s about, who am I and why I’m doing this… this podcast. I’m always interested when I listen to a podcast to kind of hear a bit about the hosts and why they’ve decided to do their podcast. So I thought since I’m doing my own right here, I should practise what I preach and introduce myself a bit before getting on with the space.
So, starting off, what is I Need Space going to be about? As you might have guessed, it’s a podcast about space, and it’s not about anything in particular in space. Essentially it’s an excuse for me to talk about all the cool things in space that I am interested in, which is really a lot of different things. So one of the things I’ve always struggled with throughout my higher education is the fact that you kind of… there’s a point where you have to start specialising, and I always struggle with that because there’s so many interesting things and it’s like, “how can you just pick one to work on?” So, as I said, this podcast is going to be just an opportunity for me to talk about lots of different things, really.
So, let’s move on to “who am I?” As I just alluded to, I am a student, so I actually am currently studying for my Masters in Space Science and Technology with the Open University in the UK. So I do that part time and I also work full time in science communication in the sort of biosciences. So my day job is kind of getting involved with, kind of, lots of different science, and communicating it in different ways, which is really cool, but I decided a few years ago that I wanted to go back to my kind of specialty, which is kind of more physics – I studied physics at Bachelors level – and, yeah, do my masters in space science while I was working. I was actually originally planning to essentially work for a few years and then quit and then do a masters full time, but then I realised I really like having money, so I decided to do it alongside my job, which is challenging at times, but really cool as well, to get both of those, sort of, things to do.
So, I guess that’s kind of a good point to get into “why do I love space so much?” I was never one of those kids, you know, you hear about people who have just always known that they want to, like, work in space, or they always wanted to be an astronaut, and that’s how they ended up working in space science. So that wasn’t really me, I kind of went through a few different things that I wanted to do, and I guess, to some extent, I still wish that I could do all of them. I wish I could be a librarian, who’s also a forensic pathologist, who also is an astronaut, who’s also a doctor, who’s also all these different things… but of course we can’t quite, you know, there aren’t quite enough hours in the day to do all that.
But I kind of zeroed in on space because, and obviously I kind of, I studied physics, I really love physics, but what, kind of, I love about space is it kind of, for me, combines the, the wonder of the universe, I guess, you know. Not to get too Brian Cox about it but, you know, that amazing vastness that’s kind of exciting because it’s always there to access, if that makes sense? So it’s, kind of, you know, at night time you can just look up and even where I am – so I live in London, so we don’t see that many stars but, still, when I look out on a clear night I can see the stars and it just, kind of, connects you to the universe.
So there’s that kind of aspect, but then there’s also the really practical side of things, and the fact that our whole world infrastructure depends on space, it depends on satellites, that appealed as well, and also just, kind of, the science that’s being done to improve people’s lives around the world. But, then again, at the same time, the fact that we can visit other planets and discover things about other planets that help us discover more about ourselves. And there’s just, you know, there’s so much in space to discover. It’s not just about moon landings, but it is about that as well, which is also really cool.
So yeah, as I, as I mentioned, by the way, I live in London and I am in my professional recording studio, which is under my duvet on my bed. So if you hear any background noise, I’m really sorry, but I’m not quite at the stage where I’m ready to invest in proper recording studio time, but hopefully it’s not too bad.
Anyway, moving on now to just “why do a podcast about this?” Part of the reason is peer pressure, essentially. My boyfriend, who I’ve been with for nine years now, has been pestering – I shouldn’t say this [laughs] – he’s been encouraging, he’s been encouraging me for years to start a podcast because we both love podcasts, we listen to quite a few of them and he always just says that I’d be really good at it. Whether that’s true, remains to be seen. [laughs] And then also, more recently, I started mentoring – or being mentored – through the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs and the Space4Women programme, and my mentor, whose name is Vered Cohen-Barzilay, also encouraged me to start this off and to, essentially, just kind of do it without any expectation of, like, “Oh, I’m gonna make this into a massive thing”, just kind of record myself and then, you know, edit it and just, kind of, put it out there in the universe and see what happens.
So yeah, as I said, peer pressure, big thing [laughs]. But also just, yeah, I love talking about space. It’s something I don’t get to do as much as I want to. So I volunteer at the Science Museum in London and I give talks there about space, but that’s not something I can do all the time because it’s quite a big time commitment, whereas recording a podcast episode is, you know, it’s still a time investment, but it’s not quite so much of one, and it’s a bit more, like, I can just, kind of, do what I want, really. A bit more casual, a bit more, bit more freeform and, yeah. I guess also I just as I said, I love podcasts, I really enjoy also the process of making podcasts, so I do that at work – part of my job is producing a podcast – and I, kind of, just want to develop my skills in that as well. So it’s kind of a partly for fun, partly also just to, sort of, develop my science communication skills.
So, I kind of said already that this is not going to be a very focused podcast. I mean, it’s going to focus on space, but all different topics, so I’ll let you in on a little secret, that this is actually not the first episode that I’m recording – I’ve actually recorded episode one already, and I’ve come back and done this one – so I will give you a little spoiler that that one is to do with the planet Mercury. So I’m also actually doing my thesis at the moment on Mercury, but I’m, you know, I’m pretty happy with that episode, so I hope you enjoy it.
I don’t want to share too many other ideas, just in case I don’t do them, but I kind of want to look at as well sort of social, social and ethical issues in space. I want to look at just, again, just all the cool, kind of, things that interest me. So, if you happen to have any ideas for something I should cover in a future episode, then you can actually get involved as well, so please feel free to get in touch with me. The best way to do that, probably, is if you go to my website, which is astrocourt.space, and if you go there and just click the contact link in the top right, it will take you to a form where you can get in contact with me and let me know what you think.
So at this stage as well, before I wrap up, I just want to mention the music that you hear at the start and end of each episode, so that’s called “Ticking Away” by the band Cranston. I’ve actually had it saved on my computer for years. So, I came across it on the, the Free Music Archive years and years ago, and I can’t find… the band doesn’t have much of a presence online besides a Bandcamp website that just, pretty much just has this song on it but, when I found it, it was under Creative Commons, so you can use it with attribution and, yeah, I guess, as I said, I’ve had it in my, in my documents for years, so it’s almost like I knew that I would start a podcast one day. I tried some other things but I thought “no, this is the one that has just been… waiting for this moment” almost.
And, again, just some quick acknowledgements at this stage. I already mentioned the, sort of, two most important people for this podcast, so that’s my boyfriend, Gordon Wallis, who, as I said, lightly encouraged me for several years to start this podcast. And finally I have, and he’s really good, he’s alright [laughs] he’s, you know, he’s great, you know, quite like him. And also my mentor from the Space4Women programme, Vered Cohen-Barzilay, who’s a really cool lady, and it’s great to be working with a really inspirational woman in space and to have her encouragement on things like this but, yeah… And then… anyone else I want to acknowledge? I mean, I’m sure there’s so… I mean, there’s so many people, like, who’ve helped and inspired me along the way, pretty much every teacher I’ve ever had. I can’t think of anyone else, but I’m sure as soon as I turn this off, I’ll think of a ton more people so, just, thank you to everyone who supports me, continues to support me and I hope you enjoy this podcast. I’m going to hopefully enjoy putting it together for you.
And with that I’m going to wrap up this episode zero of the podcast, I Need Space, which is written, hosted and produced by me, Courtney Williams. So, details of the music, transcripts, other stuff, is going to be in the description and, again, if you want to learn a bit more about me then visit my website astrocourt.space, which is like “astronaut”, but it’s “Court”.
Thanks again for listening, and hope to see you soon. And, of course, don’t forget to give yourself some space.
[Outtake] And other acknowledgments… Can I acknowledge Gillian Anderson? Because, like, Dana Scully is the reason I became a scientist. [laughs] I mean, Gillian, if you’re listening, like, I love you. [laughs] Oh no, I can’t say that, oh… [laughs]