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Career Profile

Cameron Dickinson

Senior Engineer, Space Exploration
Cameron Dickenson
Cameron Dickenson
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

I work on sensors and camera technology for use on planetary exploration missions.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Edmonton, AB, and grew up in Calgary, AB and Bathurst, NB.

I now live in: Toronto, ON.

I completed my training/education at: I completed a Bachelor of Science and a Ph.D in physical chemistry and both at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. I also attended the International Space University.

What I do at work

I work for a Canadian company (MDA) that is involved in robotics and space operations. We developed the Canadarm and a host of other space-exploration technology. I am a research scientist and senior engineer at MDA.

Most of my day is spent designing systems for use in planetary missions, such as the upcoming Lunar space station (known as Gateway) and for other optical based sensors. This requires knowledge of optics, lasers, and electronics. I also need to know the properties of a large variety of materials. I help design a variety of sensors and cameras.

I also coordinate with engineering and scientific specialists to perform analyses of these devices. Their work helps ensure that whatever is designed will survive the rigors of outer space. I use my knowledge of math and science to estimate the expected performance. I also interact with the end “customers”. My customers are the scientists and astronauts that will use the devices being designed. I lead a team of between 3 and 20 engineers, depending on the size of the project.

My career path is

When I left high school I wanted to be a doctor. I started by doing a chemistry degree. As I went through university, I fell in love with research. This led me to go on to complete my PhD in chemistry.

I have reinvented myself several times throughout my career. I took my knowledge of lasers and applied them to the Martian atmosphere. Later, I applied this knowledge to looking at the surface of an asteroid. Over the years, I have transitioned from a research scientist to an engineer.

I am motivated by

I love learning new things! I love digging into the underlying science that the sensors that I design and build will be used for. My career has allowed me to investigate and explore the atmosphere of Mars. It has also allowed me to be part of the investigation of the surface of an asteroid and now a space station that orbits the moon. In addition to engineering, I also teach and mentor university students. I enjoy my role in helping them in their early career.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The best part of my career is the amazing people that I meet and work with. I have worked on missions that push the boundaries of the exploration of our solar system. These missions have included discovering snow falling on Mars, to surveying a 3.5 billion year old asteroid. Now it is designing the cameras that will be used on a lunar outpost.

Outside of work I

I operate a karate dojo where I instruct kids and adults in karate and self-defense. I enjoy watching students progress and sharpen their skills. I have coached kids in competitive karate. I enjoy helping them meet their goals.

My advice to others

Try a number of different things to make sure it is what you want in life. Also, get as much experience as you can with different projects. You never know when that information will come in handy.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Math
  • Science
  • Computer Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Always threw the best parties
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Learned best "by doing"

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