Research Assistant, Mars System Lab, Jozef Kozár @sciencemars_com: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Dr. Jozef Kozár

NAME:  Dr Jozef Kozár

CURRENT TITLE:  Research scientist at Mars Systems Laboratory, Kosice, Slovakia

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  My research interest is multi-disciplinary, covering robotic and planetary exploration missions, systems engineering and planetary science. My work is fully focused on Mars. For example, one of the projects that I am working on these days is a concept of global navigation satellite system for planet Mars. This includes deep research in almost every part of the planetary science related to Mars – from the ground to the very last, top levels of atmosphere and ionosphere of this beautiful planet.

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 13

EDUCATION:  Ph.D. from Technical University of Kosice, Slovakia; planetary science postgraduate courses and research, systems engineering and aerospace.

WEBSITE: https://www.jozefkozar.com

What’s your job like?

I would say that sometimes I feel like I’m “sitting on two chairs at the same time” – systems engineering and planetary science. My job is to study the newest knowledge and data related to planetary conditions of Mars and to apply them in the process of my research. For example, when we need to know how something like a positioning system will work on Mars, we need to simulate a specific scenario with exactly the same conditions like those on Mars. These conditions depend on the actual location on Mars, position of simulated satellites, solar activity of that time and of course many other aspects. My job usually begins with an idea, then follows with pencil and paper. The harder part, but also very interesting part, is the study of the mentioned data and then calculations, computing, simulations and evaluation of the results. Sometimes in the research process I find something interesting and new, and this usually leads to the study of something that we did not even know before.

What’s a typical day like?

My typical day starts at 05:30 a.m., when my dog Ringo wakes me up. When having a morning coffee in our kitchen, I usually read all fresh emails and news related to my work. So, usually the fresh information and news from my field of interest is also my first “food.” During the day, I usually work on various system engineering tasks, preparing inputs for following research steps and … thinking. When you are trying to propose something new, some new system, you usually spend some time with that and you end up with the result saying, “Ok, it cannot work this way. So, let’s do it in a different way.“ When you do something very detailed, there are many particular steps and some of them can be more than interesting. In these cases, you must think like some kind of martian to find the right answer.

My typical activities during a day also include writing the results and finalizing them in papers. If I am happy and some of my papers are accepted by editors, then these are published. At present, I do not teach anymore (who knows, maybe I will get a chance to resume teaching also). Preparing of my presentations and keynotes covers a lot of my time, because I am a perfectionist. You can imagine when you do something that you love – you finish your day very late at night.

What’s fun?

I can say that fun is every part of my work related to Mars and space. With this kind of work, you are never bored. Of course, some days may be a little bit stressful, especially when you do not have enough time to do everything that you initially wanted. Anyway, stress occurs when you open new data or when you just walk through the newest stunning photos from Mars. You immediately become a part of that silent and beautiful world all around. From time to time, I do appear as a speaker in some public event or in a planetarium. And for me, it is really amazing to share the information about my work or just about Mars.

What’s challenging?

As I mentioned above, challenging is every simple step of my work, because you never know where this step can lead. You typically ask one question, create some hypothesis and then follow up with research and study. But when everything leads nowhere, then it usually comes. You can feel it and this motivates you further.

What’s your advice to students?

Never give up on dreaming. Do only what you like and your money will come sooner or later. I know it very well. OK, do not laugh! I am not rich, but I am happy with my work and life balance. Of course, when you are still at school or university, try to attend as many interesting courses and classes as possible. Read, listen and watch. Absorb a lot of information and then use this information in making your dreams and ideas come true. And one last piece of advice – do not worry about asking questions. Remember that your opinion is important as well, so share it with others, even your teacher.

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