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An interview with Priyanka Das, a PhD student at ISAE-SUPAERO working on satellite navigation systems

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An interview with Priyanka Das, a PhD student at ISAE-SUPAERO working on satellite navigation systems in cooperation with Safran Electronics and Defense

Q: Can you tell us about where you are coming from and what is your academic background before the PhD?
A: I am from India, with roots from Assam, the state in Northeast India known for its tea, and which gave me my mother-tongue. I was born in the city of Shimla in the Himalayan mountains, and I grew up in New Delhi, the capital. I was always very passionate about Space so I started my academic career with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics (Honors) from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Wishing for a slightly more multidisciplinary approach to science, I then joined Ecole Polytechnique for its 4-year Ingénieur Polytechnicien program (promotion X2013), specializing in my third year in Data Science. The fourth year, when we have the possibility of joining another ’école d’application’, was when I joined ISAE-Supaéro for a double degree masters in Aerospace Engineering, specializing in Autonomous Systems and Data Science.

Q: Why did you decide to enter a PhD program and why ISAE-SUPAERO?
A: The story goes back to my 2nd year at Polytechnique. I had the fantastic chance of participating at the Caltech Space Challenge 2015 at Pasadena, USA, where I met a lot of scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and many motivated students. The experience was great, but it also made me realize I was pretty much amateur when it came to Space and lacked experience in research. Therefore, I decided to pursue a PhD. ISAE-Supaéro is arguably one of the best institutes for aerospace in Europe, if not the world, with really good professors, and I did not wish to waste this opportunity while I was a student there.

Q: Can you briefly explain the topic of your thesis?
A: The exact title of my PhD is "Robust and Precise Navigation using Tightly-coupled Hybridization of Inertial and GNSS Phase Measurements". I am currently in my first year of PhD, on a CIFRE contract with Safran Electronics and Defense, directed by Prof. Eric Chaumette of ISAE-Supaéro, and co-supervised by Prof. Silvère Bonnabel of Mines ParisTech. I am working on a specific problem of satellite navigation, aiming to get a position with centimetric precision using Precise Point Positioning (PPP) techniques. It can find application as an extra layer of positioning security that can be added in autonomous cars and aircraft.

Q: What do you plan to do after your PhD thesis?
A: One of the ideas behind doing a PhD, especially a CIFRE an industrial PhD, is to postpone making professional decisions by three years, while still keeping a foot in both academics and industry. In the meantime, every day, I discover new possibilities for what I could do in the future - there are so many new fields coming up requiring diverse competencies. I would definitely like to work in R&D later on as research is liberating for someone who loves to learn and yearns for creativity, but most importantly, there is a lot of scope for personal growth as well.

Illustration thèse P. Das

A picture of the surroundings of Assam, where Priyanka has her origins.

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