Out of this world – UWE Bristol Physiotherapy graduate secures internship at the European Space Agency

Issue date: 15 August 2014

Rosalind West pictured in an exact mock-up of the Columbus module that sits at the front of the ISS

Rosalind West, a newly qualified BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy graduate from UWE Bristol has recently returned from putting her skills to the test, as part of the Space Medicine Office Team, on a prestigious three month internship at the European Space Agency (ESA) in Cologne, Germany.

It was through Rosalind's own research and networking that the opportunity arose. Having discovered that there were no current internship vacancies on the ESA website, Rosalind researched the different branches of the ESA. With a firm interest in the Exercise Team in Cologne, she contacted a previous intern, also a UK physiotherapist and volunteered at the Annual Space Biomedicine Conference at the National Space Centre, Leicestershire. At this event she met the education co-ordinator at ESA and discovered that the exercise team had a project for her.

Working with the Space Medicine Office's exercise specialists, Rosalind's main project was the evaluation of an electromyostimulation device that is currently being tested at the Astronaut Centre for its suitability to be used as part of the astronaut fitness and rehabilitation programme.

Following the recent launch of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst to the International Space Station, Rosalind hoped to get an insight into how astronauts exercise in space in order to prevent the detrimental effects of microgravity on the human body.

Talking about this unique opportunity, Rosalind who lives in Bath said, “There is a great deal of crossover into many different physiotherapy disciplines from musculoskeletal where astronauts experience low back pain and muscle and bone loss to cardiovascular deconditioning and vestibular changes. The exercise countermeasures try to attenuate these changes. It's been really exciting to be involved in this work and I've even managed to have a chat with a few astronauts on their experiences in space. I still can't believe, I was there.”

Lois Stevens, Lecturer in Physiotherapy, added, “Ros has just completed her studies on the undergraduate BSc Physiotherapy Programme here at UWE Bristol: she finishes with a strong academic and clinical profile. During her time as an undergraduate, Ros has built upon her previous Masters qualification, utilising and developing those skills within the UWE Physiotherapy programme to help secure this fantastic opportunity. In addition to her studies, Ros has been an active class representative to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP), including having secured a position on the Executive Committee. She is positive and pro-active and it comes as no surprise to the staff team here that she was able to beat off strong competition to secure the internship. I'm sure Ros was a great ambassador for UWE Bristol during her time In Germany.”

Find out more about studying Physiotherapy at UWE Bristol.

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