Math may be a foreign language to others, but a Belfast woman is hoping it will be her ticket to the stars. Dr. Caoimhe Rooney works at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California as a scientist. The 29-year-old aims to one day become an astronaut because of her knack for numbers. Dr. Rooney can become the first person from Belfast to boldly go where no one has gone before if she succeeds.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in mathematics to recognize it’s a long shot if you’re one of over 22,000 applicants for four slots on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Astronaut Corps. Dr. Rooney, who holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Oxford University, is investigating how remote planets were formed, what they are made of, and whether they may host life. A fomer Sullivan Upper School student from Hollywood, County Down, she now works for NASA as part of the planetary system branch, which studies planets outside our solar system.

Dr. Rooney stated that after losing interest in calculus, it was a specific teacher, Mrs. Anderson, who reignited her interest in the subject. “It wasn’t until GSCE when I got a really amazing teacher who reinstilled that love of maths, who showed me I could do it, and more importantly that it was a lot of fun,” she said.