Milly Kelly

Case Study: Milly Kelly

Originally from Durham, Milly took a two week work experience placement with Think Physics to support her in finding out more about physics at university. Milly also volunteers at Kielder Observatory, one of our project partners, where she enjoys learning more about astronomy and helping other people learn more too. Her other hobbies include singing, playing the guitar, spending time with friends and –rather randomly – working as a ‘beater’ for the grouse shooting! She offers a key piece of safety advice for anyone interested in that line of work:

“Don’t get shot.”

A former student of Wolsingham 6th Form, Milly studied A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics, originally aiming towards a career in medicine. However as the courses progressed she started to study areas such as quantum physics, and physics became her favoured subject. Her studies have allowed Milly to develop skills including:

  • An understanding of physics and astrophysics
  • Physics has cemented Milly’s interests in astrophysics and volunteering, thus allowing Milly to indulge her passion further as well as meet new friends with similar interests
  • Develop investigation, analytical and questioning skills
  • Become a more accomplished researcher

In late 2015, Milly started a foundation degree in physics at Kent University. Having not studied Maths at A level she’s having to do this extra year, but she reports that she’s loving it, and the time is allowing her to explore the options available later in the course. She currently thinks she’ll focus on astrophysics and space science.


Milly reports her inspirations as:

  • A talk by Princeton University’s Professor Jenny Greene in 2014 at the Centre for Life, about stars, galaxies and black holes
  • Gary Fildes from Kielder; his talks and passion for astronomy are inspiring
  • Her mum, who has fully supported her desire to pursue physics (even more so after the talk by Greene)
  • Brian Cox and his ‘night with the stars’ series, which she watched with friends
  • Physics teacher Mr Coates, whose enthusiasm was infectious, super supportive and encouraging

Milly’s advice to others:

“Don’t pick a career, rather take subjects that open up pathways and keep your options open. Studying science has allowed me to consider a number of different options.”

Ann Cairns

Ann Cairns, President of International Markets, Mastercard

Case Study: Ann Cairns

Ann was born and raised in Ashington, Northumberland, and is now President of International Markets for the global financial services company MasterCard.

In our film, Ann recalls feeling inspired in 1969 when she looked up to the moon and tried to wrap her head around somebody standing on it. She went on to study Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and took degrees in maths and statistics at Sheffield and Newcastle Universities.

Staying in the North-East, she worked for Transco in Killingworth, and became the first woman to work offshore on the oil rigs.

Like many people, Ann switched paths, in her case moving from engineering and statistics into management and the finance industry. She’s now risen to the post of President of International Markets for MasterCard Worldwide, and is a regular presence on lists of the most powerful women in business (Forbes list; BBC list).

When Think Physics caught up with her on one of her regular visits back to the North-East, we expected a hard-nosed, hectic businessperson – but instead found Ann both approachable and entertaining. Chatting to us, she described how the skills she learned serving coffees at Newcastle Central Station in her teens are still useful to her today.

Her achievements are clearly the results of hard work and determination, but Ann also reckons business success stems from how you relate to and communicate with others; to resilience; and to having a great sense of humour. All qualities, she notes, for which people from the North-East are renowned.