School of Physical Sciences

SPS Graduate Receives Exciting ESA Placement


Posted on 2nd August 2016

The ESTEC building where Sam will be working.

Recent Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics graduate, Sam Leakey, has found himself in the enviable position of being offered a place on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Young Graduate Trainee (YGT) programme.

Sam told us “ESA's YGT programme was something I first heard of in passing from friends shortly after beginning my degree at Kent. I remember how surreal it felt to think that at the end of our degrees we would be in a position to realistically apply to work at a space agency! What a wonderful, crazy idea.”

The YGT programme is designed to give successful applicants the opportunity to gain experience in the development and operation of space missions, as well as the chance to work on the data resulting from them. Eligibility depends on certain criteria laid out by ESA and patience, as the application process is five months long.

Sam will be based at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk in the Netherlands for the year, likely contributing to on-going research into meteors and their parent bodies using a remote observation station in the Canaries. That’s not all he has planned though: “I’ve heard from previous YGTs that there are often opportunities to get involved with other on-going or developing projects through the year which is something I’ll definitely be interested in.”

There are only 80 positions available on the programme each year and competition is fierce, with the best graduates applying from across the whole of Europe. Having already gained an academic excellence scholarship, Sam achieved a first in his undergraduate Masters and the highest mark in the year for his final project (for which he received a prize from the department), so was definitely a suitable candidate.

It’s not just down to grades however, and Sam recognises the impact his experiences at UKC have had. “In many respects, I owe the strength of the application I made to the many opportunities I’ve had whilst studying at Kent. Spending a year studying abroad, having a chance to sit-in on observing sessions using the University’s Beacon telescope and, most importantly, being able to get experience working on real data from an on-going space mission as part of my final year project all played such a big role in strengthening the academic side of my CV.”

Although the position is only temporary, Sam is feeling optimistic about the future: “The traineeship with ESA is only for a year but I’m confident that it has the potential to lead on to some other very exciting things. I feel so very fortunate to be in the position I am in.”


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Last Updated: 03/08/2016