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Luminita Ilinca Ignat – Project Manager

Luminita Ilinca Ignat

Credit: Luminita Ilinca Ignat

  • Quote: Trust yourself, but keep listening and learning from others.
  • Studies:
    • B.Eng. in aerospace engineering at University Politehnica of Bucharest
    • MASc. in computational fluid dynamics at École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • Job title: Project Manager
  • Employer: Canadian Space Agency

What is your connection to the James Webb Space Telescope?
James Webb Space Telescope is truly the leading thread of my career at the CSA. To date, I have spent more than half my career at the CSA on Webb!

My connection to Webb and its people is very strong. Coming back to the project after almost six years away, I found mostly the same team in place, and they received me warmly, as if I'd never left. This large team, spread over Canada, USA and Europe, has become a family over the years, bound together by so many challenges that we had, and still have, to overcome, and by so many moments of joy and pride when we succeeded.

What part of the Webb mission are you most excited about?
The past phases, from the design of the FGS/NIRISS to the delivery of the flight instrument and the subsequent stages of integration at NASA, were a tremendous experience from both the engineering and the project management sides. Being an aerospace engineer, I am passionate about designing and building anything that can fly. Being a project manager in space exploration, I am passionate about delivering projects that will advance our knowledge of the universe. It is incredibly rewarding knowing that the FGS/NIRISS instrument built and delivered by my project team will contribute to major scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. Our team of engineers, our principal investigators and scientists worked relentlessly to design and build the Canadian instrument which will be the "eyes" of the most powerful space telescope ever built!

I am also very excited about the future! I can't help dreaming about launch and that unique moment when we'll hear "lift-off”! The end of the commissioning will represent the completion of the project, but, as we will hand it over to the Operations team, we will still be part of the large Webb family, following our telescope's thrilling mission to explore the universe and its origins.

What is the best part of your job?
I think the best part of my job is getting to know and work with great people! It has been such a privilege to be part of project teams that included some of the greatest scientists and engineers in Canada and the US, to meet the highly qualified and talented individuals who were part of the CSA's Astronaut Recruitment Campaign in -, and to work with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques on his mission to the ISS in -. It is both humbling and inspiring to work with such strong leaders in their respective domains, and I learned so much from each one of them.

How did you choose your career path?
I've been fascinated by airplanes and anything man-made that can fly since I was a kid, so very early I decided that when I grow up I would build airplanes. My parents encouraged my interest, even though this was not a very common career path for girls in the '80s. So I got an aeronautical engineering degree, then a master's degree in computational fluid dynamics.

After spending several decades of my career in highly scientific and technological development environments, starting in engineering and then moving to a project management position, I could not imagine a more rewarding career path for anyone interested in science and technology domains.

What advice would you give young people interested in going into space science?
My first piece of advice would be to find a school or university program you find fascinating. It's important to be passionate about what you do. Use the early years of your career to learn as much as you can and take pride in doing things well. In Space Exploration where I work, there is so much opportunity for learning, working in great national and international teams, and participating in thrilling scientific discoveries. It is said that "the sky is the limit," but in space science, the sky is only the beginning.

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