Sharmin and Yasmin Zaman are sisters both with a passion for Engineering! Sharmin is a current third year UNSW Mechatronics Engineering & Computer Science student and Yasmin is an alumnus of UNSW Engineering and Fulbright Scholar recipient!

Tired from sitting at my desk for too long, I leave my room and I enter the one adjacent to it. Hanging on its walls are NASA posters and a Mighty Ducks jersey; the floor is adorned with a dinosaur rug (affectionately named Steve), and the cabinets have some form of space memorabilia in every nook and cranny. This, unfortunately, is not the room of a child, but the room of Yasmin Zaman, my older sister, UNSW Engineering Alumnus and recipient of a 2022 Fulbright Scholarship.

Though it has rung through the hallway of our home since she first found out, I congratulate her again on becoming a Fulbright Scholar. She laughs and thanks me, my serious tone throwing her off. 

“I’ll be pursuing my Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, researching Bioastronautics”. She further elaborates, “This involves how to best design for humans by understanding aspects relating to their psychology and physiology, and using these principles to optimise their performance in space.”

I can still only nod my head in amazement every time Yasmin explains it to me, or anyone else for that matter.

Yasmin originally wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and she laughs as I recount this to her. Falling short on her ATAR, she was reminded of her childhood dream to go to space and chose Aerospace Engineering. But she went to university to learn and return toher roots. One UNSW FEAS application and a ‘porque no los dos’ later, she decided to study both Aerospace Engineering and Science, majoring in Neuroscience, during her time at UNSW. 

At events, people will ask Yasmin what she does. They respond to her answer with, “So you want to go to Mars?”

“Exactly.”, she responds.

“Initially, I couldn’t see the relation between the two. It wasn’t until my third year that one of my friends pointed out that I could bridge them and that I could actually work within the human spaceflight realm by understanding how humans work in space. I realised that maybe I didn’t want to go down the ‘traditional’ route of building rockets as I had initially imagined, but instead, I could use my skills to develop things for people in space.”

Since Yasmin’s 4th year of university, all I can remember is her running out of the house early in the morning to make it to a Student Ambassador shift, or, since 3rd year, coming home late from an EngSoc event, 

“I always say I really like working with people, and I learned that through EngSoc. Working amongst a team and knowing the work I did could have a positive influence on others, and I think that was the first time I realised I enjoyed that type of work.”, she reflects. “But I think it was when I went to SpaceX with UNSW Hyperloop [Yasmin’s note: RIP] that really solidified the decision. Seeing a Dragon capsule and knowing this would be bringing people to space - I knew I wanted to work in this field.” ”

Yasmin has mentored many young engineering students throughout her time, but I’d like to think her favourite mentee has been me, her own sister. 

I remember when I first got into UNSW Engineering, and I cried in the car the whole way home with Yasmin, who was driving the both of us from a shift we worked together. We parked the car and hugged until it dawned on us - we were going to the same university. Since then, I’ve seen her around constantly, whether physically in Ainsworth 204, or in print, as the face of the ChallENG program posters adorning building walls all over the University. It has been very amusing having friends sending me photos of the posters, as I’ve joked that ‘she haunts me everywhere I go’, or even strangers approaching either one of us about them, citing how Yasmin looks so familiar. 

Outside of university, Yasmin has shown no signs of slowing down. “I just wanted to learn more”. 

“I had barely coded before (does MATLAB count?) but my first internship was in virtual reality. My second involved a deep dive in future transportation technologies, where I researched Australia’s capabilities in areas such as human spaceflight. The common factor through these internships is that they supported the human experience. Your virtual reality experience has to have the right frame rate to avoid the majority getting too motion sick. You can’t launch humans into space without the proper infrastructure. Humans must be cared for. Now, my job at the Australian Space Agency really hones in on that, where I get to work on an industry roadmap about Leapfrog R&D that focuses on applied space medicine and life sciences. Here I support the creation of a 10 year plan noting Australia’s strengths and capabilities in the realm of space medicine and life sciences. Australia has so much potential and I’m so excited to see what the space industry will look like when I get back.”

I genuinely feel no emotion other than pride when it comes to Yasmin, as I’ve watched her persevere throughout. Though it does bring me waves of sadness knowing she’ll be leaving Australia for the United States this year, I can’t help but smile knowing she’s working towards an amazing future, for herself and for space. I just hope they have reception on Mars so she can FaceTime me to let me know she’s made it there safely.