In 2004 five young scientists participated in a pilot trainee programme taking place at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) and contributing to the XMM-Newton satellite project.
The trainees are from the University of Madrid (Spain), the University of Bonn (Germany) and from the ESA Young Graduate Trainee Programme.
The project has been supervised by tutors and comprised of students from the following three areas.
- The pre graduate program for Spanish students from the UCM, that every year allows students from the Madrid Complutense University to do an internship at ESAC and get the results credited for their university career.
- The ESA internship trainee programme.
- The ESA young graduate trainee programme.
The project was split in five sub-projects that overlapped in the techniques of data analysis and benefitted in conceptual structure from each other. However it was assured not to introduce dependencies that slow one project down, because important input from other sub-projects is needed such that the situation of a single point of failure could arise.
To get the sub-projects started, a "First definition" and the "First steps and goals" of the project were defined by the tutor as a first guideline. The "First definition" was then refined and extended by the trainee to a real project definition after the first weeks. The "First steps and goals" were transformed into a Timeline for the project by the trainee supervised by the tutor. This strategy allowed the trainee to start from the outset on a well defined project, which is highly important for projects on short time-scales, but also to redefine and structure the project after a short period of introduction and adjustment. The concept of an realistic timeline also allowed room for contingencies . After successful completion of the work, a self-assessment and review enabled the trainee to get a first impression of the structure of project work, and to develop skills for the future regarding similar based project set-ups.
Once per week a meeting of all trainees with the tutor was held in order to discuss briefly the status of the projects. The responsibility for minutes writing was rotated amongst the members of the group, and was used in order to track the activities for the tutor and to force the trainee on a regular basis to self-assess and review his own project.
Each trainee, after the first introductory period of their traineeship, gave a talk on the principle ideas of their project which was complemented by a final talk on the content and outcome of the project at the end of the project period.
The final results of the project will be made available in a report in the near future. Relevant parts of this report have been submitted to the respective departments of the university for the pre-graduate students to be used in their credit point system
For 2005 it is planned to continue and extend the project. The combination of the different ESA trainee schemes will allow to follow up the EPIC trainee project 2004, also in collaboration with a PhD project with the University of Tübingen and University of Warwick. The idea is to build up a continuous group of 3-5 people at different stages in their scientific or technical career who contribute to the work of the XMM-Newton Team. Moreover, all students would benefit from this work by developing new skills and building up knowledge in the space science related environment, and additionaly, due to the cooperation with the other universities in the project, they would have the possibility to build up networks also outside of ESA.