A space talk with Laura-Kristin Scholtz: Women in science

Portrait of Laura-Kristin Scholtz.


February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and we used the occasion to talk with Laura-Kristin Scholtz, a mechanical engineer who works as a project manager at Andøya Space Sub-Orbital.

Andøya Space is a company which empowers scientists in their research, by enabling them to launch research rockets, perform remote sensing and providing other types of technical support.

To do that our engineers need to employ many of the same principles as the scientists themselves: observation, experimentation and analysis to create solutions that sometimes have to function under extreme conditions. This work involves data collection, critical thinking, collaboration and a systematic approach. When we meet with Laura-Kristin, she’s busy doing just that.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on right now?

– I am currently working with the development of a scientific instrument called «Holoscene», she says. – As it is under development there are always new issues coming up which need a solution. For example, I am currently designing special tools to mount and de-mount parts in the instrument, that cannot be reached otherwise. To solve some of the problems, I need to do some research first and learn about new topics, to find different possibilities and decide what to do.

What motivated you to pursue a career within engineering?

– I played a lot with Lego and specifically Lego Technic as a child, Scholtz says. – And I wanted to understand why planes fly. Also, I loved going to the technical museum in Munich called «Deutsches Museum», where I was especially impressed by the science shows, and the displays of cut-open machines, engines, or bridge parts to see the inside and how they work.

– Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I didn’t have the feeling, that I couldn’t choose whatever I wanted to do in my life. So, I wasn’t afraid to start studying engineering.

A portrait of Laura-Kristin Scholtz in front of her current project.
Laura-Kristin Scholtz and the project she’s working on, Holoscene.

Was it a popular study with other women?

– We were 10% female (of 1 400 students) when I started studying mechanical engineering. Only when I did my compulsory 8-week internship (pre-internship for studying mechanical engineering) in a small metal workshop, I sometimes got curious questions from external people. However, my colleagues always defended me and women in general working as craftsmen, saying «You don’t need to be strong or tall as a craftsman, you just need the right tools».

How can we all inspire the next generation of female engineers and encourage more women to join the field?

– To inspire the next generation of female engineers, we have to make them curious about all the engineering and science which surrounds us, Scholtz says.

– Basically, everything that surrounds us has some kind of engineering involved, this could be automated production machines for things that we use on a daily basis or ergonomics engineering for the design of everyday tools like pens or chairs or computer keyboards.

– How we should encourage them – by showing them and by letting them try and fail and try again, until they find a solution, Scholtz finishes.

More information

For more information, contact Andøya Space Sub-Orbital