Exploring EO data – Carlos works on multiple Copernicus projects at EUMETSAT

With a special interest in space and the health of the planet, Carlos Fortuny-Lombraña pursued an internship with us – and luckily for us he did! Carlos has been a great asset to the teams at EUMETSAT, investing his time into multiple projects and contributing to important tasks.

Read on to hear about the many interesting things he worked on and what he learnt during his short time with us.

Figure 1: Carlos inside the EUMETSAT HQ in Darmstadt

1) Can you please introduce yourself and your role?

My name is Carlos Fortuny-Lombraña and I am currently a Copernicus Data Services Engineer Intern at EUMETSAT. I’m serving a three-month internship within the Generic Systems and Infrastructure Division, part of the Technical and Scientific Support department. Here, I support the Data Services team on the WEkEO DIAS (Data and Information Access Service) platform for environmental data. I am also supporting the development of an online course focused on Copernicus data and artificial intelligence (AI) launching on 18 of October.

2) What are your main tasks/what does a typical day look like?

All of my main tasks are linked to the Copernicus WEkEO data portal that is provided by EUMETSAT, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Mercator Ocean International and the European Environment Agency (EEA). To help people work with Copernicus data through WEkEO, EUMETSAT and its partners are developing the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Copernicus data, soon to be available on the FutureLearn platform.

As part of this project, I was assigned to develop a reinforcement use case study applied to EO imagery as a Jupyter Notebook that will be hosted on WEkEO as part of the MOOC. This was not that straightforward as it is a complex subject, but it will definitely help me work within a research environment in the future. Since I spent a significant amount of time familiarising myself with the topic, I was able to develop a hands-on Jupyter Notebook on reinforcement learning. After the hard work, I had the opportunity to be filmed for a tutorial to explain the code in my Notebook for users, and this will also be part of the MOOC.

In order to develop the Notebook, I first had to explore and familiarise myself with different WEkEO protocols to access the EO data. Hence, I had to read the extensive WEkEO documentation and afterwards, I was able to review and improve some of the Jupyter Notebooks used for webinars and training. Furthermore, I had the possibility of generating new sections on the WEkEO documentation. The sections were mainly related to creating a new environment and kernel in the JupyterHub and sharing big data among users more efficiently.

My last main task was to validate and test existing Jupyter Notebooks to enable end-users to quickly access and work with Copernicus data and services using machine learning (MI) techniques on the WEkEO platform.

As you can tell from all this, my day-to-day work was revolved around the Earth observation data and services from the Copernicus Programme.

3) Can you delve a bit deeper into how you personally contributed to the projects you were involved with?

In all of the tasks I had to have effective communication. This is because I had to exchange information and ideas with co-workers constantly, as the colleagues I had to work with are from different departments. In supporting the WEkEO service, I had to inform the authors of the Jupyter Notebooks of all the improvements and changes made. Most of the EUMETSAT authors were from the User Support & Climate Services team, whereas for the work on the MOOC I had a lot of interaction with the communications team. We had numerous exchanges where we discussed the marketing side of the MOOC and I was informing them about the progress made on the Jupyter Notebook on the topic of reinforcement learning.

During the reinforcement learning task, I contacted research institutions, such as the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Stanford University and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. They gave me great suggestions that helped me develop the Jupyter Notebook more efficiently. Making connections with them has been very valuable.

4) Was this your first internship?

This is my first “proper” internship. Before, I had two full-time weeks working with a research group specialised in Signal Processing for Communications and Navigation (SPCOMNAV) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). Having this opportunity before starting my university education has really helped me to discover whether working in the space sector is my place to be. There, I analysed the visibility of GPS and Galileo satellites at a known position and observation time with the aid of a U-blox receiver.

5) What made you choose EUMETSAT and when did you first hear about us?

I first heard about EUMETSAT and its contribution to the Copernicus Programme. However, I really started following EUMETSAT in more depth when the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched from California in November 2020. This is because I was impressed with the objectives that the European Commission had implemented within the Copernicus Programme for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Since EUMETSAT is an organisation that contributes to weather forecasting and monitoring climate change, it plays a huge role in addressing the health of our planet Earth 🌍 on a global scale by saving a significant amount of lives. Furthermore, EUMETSAT has strong partnerships with NOAA, NASA, the ECMWF and ESA, which makes it even more well-known. Due to all of this, I thought that working for EUMETSAT was a golden opportunity.

Figure 2: Carlos inside the Copernicus Control Room

6) What were you doing before coming here?

In September 2020, I started pursuing my master’s degree in aerospace engineering with a spaceflight specialisation at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Due to the pandemic, after one year I graduated with cum laude from a bachelor’s degree (Hons) in Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft. During the third academic year of my bachelor’s, I also had the possibility to do a semester abroad at the University of Texas at Austin where I broadened my horizons in electrical and computing engineering.

7) What are your plans after leaving?

I am looking forward to my next plan, which is to work on my master’s thesis. The literature study and thesis should take one academic year, and it will be about the analysis of PRIDE and Doppler data from the ExoMars-2020 lander for improving the uncertainty of the Martian rotational variations. After this, I still need some time to think about which path I should take towards my future career.

8) What were you most looking forward to before coming to EUMETSAT and has the experience met your expectations?

Before coming to EUMETSAT, I was looking forward to working with smart and motivated people in a professional European environment. Additionally, I was excited to learn as much as possible to figure out what kind of career I want. My expectations have been fulfilled and exceeded by this internship.

9) Do you feel like you’ve had any kind of personal growth during this time?

Definitely! At the beginning of the internship, I wanted to establish some goals in order to succeed in my future career. Hence, I have significantly improved some soft skills that I was lacking. Since I have been in contact with many people (inside and outside of EUMETSAT) I have enhanced many skills, but especially in public speaking and communication. I feel like the personal growth that I had during this time is very valuable.

10) How will your experience help you in the future?

Since I was in doubt whether I should go straight to industry or study for a PhD, this internship definitely helped clarify which path I should take. During this time at EUMETSAT, I was very pleased to meet a member of the radio occultation team. This is because my future master’s thesis has several links with radio occultation, and the chat obviously helped me for my future career.

Figure 3: Carlos inside the Copernicus Control Room

11) What have you enjoyed the most about your working experience and did you come across any challenges?

I embrace and adapt quickly to new responsibilities and am enthusiastic to gain new knowledge – learning is my passion. Enjoying the learning process will help you retain knowledge more completely and meaningfully. During this time, I had an opportunity to expand my knowledge in AI and ML applied to EO. Before starting the internship, I had a couple of assignments in which I applied one of the three ML techniques. During these assignments, I used only supervised learning and applied it to some astrodynamics problems (e.g. spacecraft attitude motion and orbital motion). However, I was not familiar with reinforcement learning and neither with applying ML techniques for image processing. Thus, I had a big challenge to tackle as I needed to create a use reinforcement learning case study applied to EO imagery for the upcoming MOOC course. This trend of reinforcement learning in EO has just started, and it was quite stressful to find relevant sources and scientific papers. With the aid of co-workers, I have been constantly motivated to succeed, and I ended up obtaining marvellous results.

12) Is it your first time living in Germany?

This was my second time living in Germany. Since there is a European school in Frankfurt, I did an exchange programme to improve my German proficiency, and thus, I lived in Frankfurt for one month in the winter of 2014. Fortunately, I was already aware of the area, and I did not have any surprises.

13) What do you like most about working at EUMETSAT as an organisation in general?

Well, first and foremost, I would say that EUMETSAT’s overall reputation drew me in. I really loved that from day one all of the EUMETSAT colleagues were very open and willing to help – it made me feel very comfortable and welcome. Then, I found it very attractive that I always have people around me from different nationalities. This makes EUMETSAT much more diverse and powerful. I look forward to being in a similar workplace that continually demands excellence.

14) Have you had any memorable moments during your time here?

Of course! For each new experience you have, you’re always reminded of the first day. I still remember everything, and I was impressed by the EUMETSAT HQ infrastructure and the real-size satellite models outside.

Another memorable moment was when I had a tutorial recording inside the Copernicus Control Room for the upcoming MOOC course. At the beginning of the internship, I could not visit the control room due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, I was very glad that I had performed one of the most important tasks inside the control room, and I will never forget it.

15) EUMETSAT aside, what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?

In my spare time, I enjoy playing and watching sports. During my stay in Darmstadt, I joined a CrossFit team and it really helped me to keep active and disconnect from work. In addition to this, l love to travel and explore new cities around Germany. Other activities include enjoying playing chess with passion and commitment, and when the pandemic allows, meeting with friends.

16) Do you have any advice for our younger audience that might want to follow in your footsteps one day? Things for them to think about when considering EUMETSAT as a place to intern…

Do not miss any opportunity! You should always apply to anything that you are interested in. I have one important suggestion for preparing the desired application and the possible interview – the applicant should personalise their resume and motivation letter for each vacancy in order to be an excellent candidate.

I strongly advise applying to EUMETSAT if your life is revolved around space. An internship at EUMETSAT gives you experience in the career field you want to pursue, and opens doors to greater opportunities. Also, EUMETSAT is a wonderful work environment and a place where it will help develop your professional aptitude and strengthen your personal character.

Figure 4: Carlos in front of our real-size Sentinel-6 model at HQ

Good luck, Carlos – you will be missed! You will be able to watch Carlos’ tutorial in October when our MOOC is open – stay tuned on our social media channels for updates.

We hope that you’re enjoying our series of intern interviews and that it provides you with some valuable insight into the EUMETSAT working experience – perhaps one day you could be telling your own story here!

To see more of what life is like #InsideEUMETSAT, follow us on Instagram for more regular content.

About the Author

Natalie Lunt

Leave a Comment