Miriam Billoni

When Miriam began studying Fine Arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Brera, Milan, the last thing she imagined was that she would end up helping to build a spacecraft.

Miriam joined the public relations team involved in the SSETI Express programme in January 2004 when she was told about the project by one of her teachers. Since then, in addition to her normal studies, Miriam has been involved in all the aspects of publicising SSETI Express.

Some may think public relations are of minor importance in comparison to physically building a spacecraft but they are a vital part of any space mission. PR is essential in finding - and keeping - sponsors, partners and funding. It also ensures that more people learn about the spacecraft, its possible uses and future developments.

We asked Miriam about some aspects of working on SSETI Express.

Given your academic background in the arts, what made you decide to take part in a science project?

When my teacher offered me the opportunity of participating in this project I thought it would be a great way to apply the skills I was learning.

How have you found the experience?

It has been difficult but fun, and very different to what I expected. I found this project both academically and socially beneficial. I got to use my web and graphic design skills and network with people who have similar interests.

You have been working with students from many other countries. Has it changed your perceptions at all?

No not really, I knew I would meet very interesting people and I have. One of the best aspects of being part of SSETI is that I have made many new friends all around Europe. I have established good relationships with people who speak a different language, have a different mentality and come from a different culture. I know this is something that will help me in the future.

Has it made any difference to your future plans?

Through working on the project I have learnt more about graphic art. Now I know that this is the area in which I want to make my career as I find it very rewarding.

What has been the best moment of working on the project so far?

My best moment was when the SSETI brochure arrived from the printers. We had been planning and working on it for such a long time it was great to see the final product.

And the most difficult ….?

When my deadlines for the SSETI project and my studies were too close together!

Can you share one of your memories about the project with us?

In April 2005 I had a very eventful 1700 km car journey to Aalborg in Denmark with Francesco, another member of the PR team. We had to take some material we had prepared to an important SSETI meeting: STEC 2005.

During the journey we were stopped by the police in Stuttgart, probably because our car was old, dirty and full of stuff. When we finally arrived, my colleague was taken ill and had to go to hospital, then the car broke down and we had to find a mechanic to repair it before we could drive another 1700 km back to Italy. Despite all this I enjoyed the trip and the posters and brochures we had prepared were well received, making it all worthwhile.

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