Reaching for the stars: an engineering student feels right at home in her space endeavours  – Faculty of Engineering

Reaching for the stars: an engineering student feels right at home in her space endeavours 

Magalie Durepos-Létourneau portrait wearing a grey and maroon collared shirt with a green background
By Naz Kittani

If you can see it, you can be it. 

For Magalie Durepos-Létourneau, a fourth-year Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) student, this adage inspired her pursuit of a career in aerospace.  

Growing up in Timmins, Ontario, she often witnessed the beauty of a clear night sky full of stars and had lived very close to the Timmins’ stratospheric balloon base, where majestic stratospheric balloons were launched. It was in her hometown that the dream to reach those stars was brought to life.  

When she was 17, Durepos-Létourneau took one giant leap towards her goals when she worked with the Canadian Space Agency and Science Timmins to make her own experiment, which was then launched on a stratospheric balloon. 

“This opportunity allowed me to learn from experts in the field and gain new skills while working on a project I was passionate about,” she says. “It made my goal of working in the space sector attainable, and I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for this opportunity”.

Magalie wears a bright yellow CSA jacket with stratospheric balloons in the background

Joining the McMaster aerospace community  

After doing her research on universities in Canada that would offer her more opportunities in the aerospace field, Durepos-Létourneau joined McMaster Engineering as one of ten Schulich Leaders in 2020. Despite having to join the McMaster community virtually during the pandemic, Durepos-Létourneau was able to build a community through the support of the Faculty’s clubs and teams.  

She served as President of the McMaster Planetary Society from 2022-2023 after joining the club in 2021 as a VP Event Coordinator. She was also a Hardware Specialist, and is now Mission Manager, for the McMaster Interdisciplinary Satellite Team (MIST), which made headlines in March 2023 for their student-built satellite. The NEUtron DOSimetry & Exploration (NEUDOSE) satellite, designed to measure radiation in space, was launched aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. MIST is now working on the Pitch Resolving Spectroscopy for Electron Transport (PRESET) mission which aims to measure the pitch-angle dependent electron spectrum in the Van Allen Belts. This CubeSat will be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  

Magalie wearing PPE and posing with the NEUDOSE cube satellite

“Joining different clubs and research teams played a vital role in building that sense of community at McMaster” Durepos-Létourneau says. “I was able to take on leadership roles and learn from people who share the same interests and passions.”

Her involvement in space-focused clubs and teams and the flexibility of the McMaster Engineering co-op program are what led Durepos-Létourneau to career breakthroughs in aerospace.  

Industry experience through co-op 

Under the supervision of Dr. Rafael Kleiman, Durepos-Létourneau completed her first co-op as a Research Assistant on a satellite-based optical communications project. Working with a small team, she gained new skills and developed a keen interest for research.  

In the summer of 2022, and again in 2023, Durepos-Létourneau returned to the Timmins base where it all started, for the Strato-Science campaign of the STRATOS program. This time, she was there as a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) intern and had the opportunity to share her passion and her dreams with young people from her community. 

Durepos-Létourneau described her time as an intern challenging and incredibly rewarding, as she was taught to think on her feet while working alongside a team of experts and mentors. Among some of the top moments that shaped her experience was witnessing her first balloon launch with the team and seeing more local students interested in STEM because of these stratospheric balloon launches. She also appreciated seeing more women representation in the space industry, especially among her fellow interns.  

“There is nothing women can’t do in engineering,” she says. “While there is still work to be done, it’s great to start seeing that change.”

In the next phase of her space mission, Durepos-Létourneau is currently working on the electrical engineering team at Canadian space tech company MDA Space as an electrical engineering intern. MDA Space is an international space mission partner and is currently working on building Canadarm3.  

“I’m grateful to have had these rewarding co-op opportunities working with incredible teams, and to have found a space community at McMaster. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for the Canadian space sector!” 

Magalie wears a hard hat and poses in front of a stratopheric balloon with a beautiful sunrise in the background

This story was inspired by the original article written about Durepos-Létourneau posted by the Government of Canada.