Carolle Varughese, a senior physics teacher at Dio and an astronomy aficionado, is on a mission to get her students inspired about saving our planets, drawing on ground-breaking research she’s currently doing into sustainability in the space sector.
Carolle, who grew up in Dubai and was educated in Auckland, was recently selected to work on a transdisciplinary research project with the University of Auckland, investigating the impacts of a net carbon zero and sustainable economy for our country's space sector over the next thirty years.
Outside of school, the former Astrotourism guide is also working towards her Master of Public Policy, focusing on reducing space debris that New Zealand could produce as the industry grows.
“Managing space debris accumulation is internationally and geopolitically complex,” she says, “and the scientific community has painted a picture of the risks that space debris can pose.
“I believe that to sustainably manage the growth of the space sector in New Zealand, there needs to be a long-term plan for the inevitable increase in debris produced by space activity.”
Carolle volunteered at the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium in Epsom for several years; and now runs the Young Astronomers programme for the Auckland Astronomical Society.
She first developed an interest in astronomy while she was studying for a Science degree at the University of Canterbury, and spent some time as a research observer at the University’s Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo. There, she was able to use New Zealand’s largest telescope to identify planets in other solar systems.
She moved into teaching three years ago as a way to extend her interest in science communication, and to help inspire younger generations to develop an interest in all things scientific, including an awareness of environmental issues and the importance of sustainability.
“I love talking to people about science and astronomy,” she says. “The enormity of space reminds us of our responsibility to look after our own planet and the environment of space, and it’s important that we pass on that commitment to our young people.”
“Everyone always has some curiosity about space -- there are so many questions about black holes and other huge conceptual ideas,” she says. “We tend to lose that curiosity as we become adults, but I’ve always found space fascinating.”
Despite her passion for all things space-related, Carolle is happy to keep her feet firmly on Planet Earth for the meantime.
“It’s such an exciting time to be involved with space research,” she says. “There are so many interesting things to wrestle with, and so many moving parts.
“I’m back in a place where I’m learning and growing, and I’m happy to stay put for the time being,” she says.