A portrait of Millie Sandford.

Millie Sandford

Considering university options, Millie was keen to study somewhere relatively close to home, while still having the experience of living in a different city. After looking at the university ranking tables for her chosen subject, she decided that the University of Leeds met all her requirements, especially as she already had friends there. Meeting with student ambassadors and seeing what Leeds had to offer at an open day helped finalise her decision.

Millie studied Mechanical Engineering for her first year, but transferred to Theoretical Physics BSc after deciding her initial choice wasn’t the right fit for her.

“After a year of such a practical degree, I realised that I loved to study the theory behind science more than anything. Personally, I love the flexibility with my course, I can really focus on the subject areas that I’m interested in through the optional modules.

“An optional module I’ve particularly enjoyed so far is Nuclear Operations, as I’ve always had an interest in nuclear energy. I’ve also found that my experience with School of Physics and Astronomy’s student support team has been invaluable, and extremely positive.”

A welcoming community

Reflecting on her time at Leeds, Millie said that moving away from home and making new friends had initially been daunting, as she has always been a shy person. However, the sense of community at the University of Leeds helped her to overcome such concerns.

“Taking this step was a massive opportunity for personal growth and to step out of my comfort zone. I moved to Leeds in September 2019, so it’s been just over three years since starting university. Initially, I had some teething problems, and I found it quite difficult to adjust, but it’s so important to keep putting yourself out there, as that’s the best way to make friends who you truly mesh with. Now I’m happy to say that my social life is better than it’s ever been, and I’ve gained so much confidence since starting at Leeds.”

As someone with a keen interest in games and esports, Millie was thrilled to be selected for the Intel FutureGen, which gave her valuable insight into the industry and potential employment opportunities.

“Intel FutureGen is designed to mentor promising student leaders, benefitting from guest speakers with exclusive Q&As, workshops, an industry “buddy” system, access to industry events and more. I’m gaining the opportunity to network and learn from professionals working at companies such as Twitch, Riot Games, Microsoft, Intel and Ubisoft. This competitive programme is a great foot in the door for anyone interested in a career in esports.”

A group shot of Millie Sandford with the rest of the Intel Futuregen group.


Career opportunities

In terms of experiences at the University of Leeds that would help with her future career, Millie said independent learning had been one the most valuable aspects of her degree.

“I needed the opportunity to have responsibility over my own learning, both in the content and managing my time. Because I had freedom over the modules I took, I realised my academic passion lay within the nuclear sector. I am now working on a project called A-CINCH, representing the University of Leeds in an educational nuclear and radiochemistry outreach programme involving VR.

“My role in the A-CINCH project involves speaking to people who work in various sectors of the nuclear and radiochemistry industry and recording and editing career case study videos. This has helped me narrow down my career path, as well as gain the rewarding experience of speaking to those in the industry first hand.

“I also spent two years on the committee of the esports and video games society at Leeds, which is what made me realise my passion for working with the gaming community and working with events and tournaments. This is what helped me get onto the Intel Futuregen programme.”

Since completing her studies, Millie has applied for various positions in the nuclear physics industry but is still open to the possibility of a permanent role in esports.

“I’ve been seeking voluntary and paid roles within esports just to gain some experience and see how I feel about the industry. I think it’s totally normal to reach even your final year and still be unsure of what you want to do, but it’s important to put yourself out there and try and gain some experience in where your interests lie.”

A versatile degree

Millie encouraged any prospective students considering a similar degree to get on board and be prepared to work hard, as graduating with a physics degree puts you in strong position in the current job market.

“It’s an incredibly rewarding degree, and you can do a lot of things with it once you graduate. Physics students are sought out by such a range of different industries, from computer science to engineering companies.

“Make sure you research the courses you’re interested in thoroughly before diving headfirst into the degree, I made the mistake of picking engineering because I was so concerned with the job at the end of it, but I made the wrong choice because I didn’t research properly what I’d be learning. Check out the module catalogue and attend open days to talk to the student ambassadors.”