Can you tell us about where you are coming from and what is your academic background before the PhD ?
"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-SUPAERO for a double degree masters in Aerospace Engineering, specializing in Autonomous Systems and Data Science."
Why did you decide to enter a PhD program and why ISAE-SUPAERO ?
"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-SUPAERO 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."
Can you briefly explain the topic of your thesis ?
"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-SUPAERO, 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."
What do you plan to do after your PhD thesis ?
"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."
A picture of the surroundings of Assam, where Priyanka has her origins.