Millie Watts

Geography teacher Millie Watts decided to return to her studies after a Swansea University lecturer visited her school to recruit her students - and ended up recruiting her instead!

Thirty one year old Millie received her M.Sc. in Environmental Dynamics and Climate Change at a Degree and Award Congregation for the University’s College of Science held at the City and County of Swansea’s Grand Theatre, watched by her proud mother and fiancé.

Millie had previously spent seven years as a geography and geology teacher at Richard Huish College sixth form college, Taunton. Having always wanted a career in research, Millie decided to take the plunge after meeting Dr Geraint Owen, who came to talk to her students about enrolling on the Geography BSc at Swansea.

Millie said: “I chose to return to studying following a difficult path in achieving my first degree. I was unable to complete my bachelors when I enrolled in university at 18, and had to leave before completing that degree for personal reasons. I finished my degree with the Open University, completing two years worth of study over 18 months, whilst working full time as a teacher and completing my teaching degree part time in the evenings at a local college.

"When I had gained both of those qualifications, I knew I wanted to return to studying and pursue a PhD. After talking to Geraint at the college, and then speaking to course director Dr Iain Robertson over the phone, any doubts I had about returning to studying full time, or being a mature student, were quickly dispelled. Their enthusiasm for both the course and the university encouraged me to apply, and I haven’t looked back since”.

Millie enrolled on the course as she felt its diverse modules gave her the chance to learn a variety of new skills, from statistics to modelling as well as to study climate science, particularly long term climate change. Millie also learned more about the research on-going within the Swansea Geography Department by studying the environmental dynamics module, which showcases the range of exciting topics the staff are currently engaged in.

Millie said: ‘My dissertation allowed me to develop new skills as a researcher, and I worked closely with my sponsor, the National Botanical Garden of Wales, to assess how the trees on the site have adapted to a changing climate over the last 160 years.

"At first, returning to studying seemed daunting, but Swansea is a wonderful place to live, so close to such a fantastic coastline, and the staff and students helped me to settle in quickly, and really make the most of my year in the geography department. The additional seminars and lectures gave me a fantastic overview of research both in the department, and my subject area, both from staff and a series of external speakers.

"Swansea University has the facilities and expertise in place to allow students to achieve their potential and excel in their career goals, and I am looking forward to building on the knowledge I have gained at Swansea during my further study for a PhD at Southampton”.

Now Millie is making good use of the skills learned in her MSc by continuing in academia by working for her PhD at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, where she is part of the Landslide-Tsunami project, assessing the changing climate in the Arctic and whether this will cause more submarine landslides that could affect the UK.  She will be taking part in a four week scientific cruise to the Norwegian and Greenland Seas this summer.

Course Director, Dr Iain Robertson said: “"I have known Millie since September 2012 when she was awarded one of the prestigious European Social Fund Access to Master’s scholarships to study on the MSc in Environmental Dynamics and Climate Change.

"Millie left her job as an established geography and geology teacher at Richard Huish College in Taunton where she had developed several innovative IT-based teaching methods. There can be no doubt that Millie was one of the best students that we have had on the course since it was established in 2007. She was awarded a departmental prize for the best Part One marks. She was a pleasure to teach and engaged fully with a wide range of diverse topics."

For more information on Swansea University’s College of Science visit swansea.ac.uk/science