Graduate profile

Oliver Cotton

"Enjoy your time at Surrey and the student experience and make of it what you want! I value the high level of knowledge I was able to acquire, and the warm, positive overall experience from my time here. It was a great combination of having fun and studying."

Graduation year


What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study your course here?

The key factors that attracted me to this course were the employability prospects after the degree, combined with the specific modules and content that were on offer.  After careful review of spacecraft engineering courses available in the UK, the University of Surrey stood out as a clear favourite to me. I liked the work performed in the department and the links to industry, including the Surrey Space Centre and the spin-off company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL). The modules looked like a good balance of the different themes in spacecraft engineering. I also liked that there were guest lecturers from the industry.

What were the best things about your course?

The breadth of learning and development that is available to you. 

The academics have spent a lot of time building up quality modules rich in content. Depending on how far you want to explore, you can become very knowledgeable soaking this up.

I also really liked the passion shown by the lecturers across each of their fields of interest. They were genuinely excited by their subjects and very happy to help you develop your knowledge in those areas.

What do you do now and what do you find most enjoyable about your work? 

I am a MLI Design Engineer within the Thermal Engineering Group at RAL Space. My duties include design and coordinating the manufacturing and integration of MLI products for a range of spacecraft buses/payloads. A definite highlight was getting hands-on for the integration of multi-layer insulation (MLI) onto a spacecraft that is being planned to launch to the Moon in October 2023. I've had the opportunity to work on missions by prominent space agencies as well as spacecraft being developed by start-ups in the UK space sector. It is a huge privilege to be involved with so many exciting missions within the space sector.

How did your time at Surrey help you choose what career to go into?

The quality of the knowledge that is imparted was a key strength that not only allowed me to succeed in my role but also made it more possible for me to understand which route into the space sector suited me best. I considered a number of different areas at the start of the degree and my experiences over the year helped me rule things out. The professors were also very helpful to talk to about career aspirations! 

What is your advice for students aspiring to work in your profession?

I believe in the current climate there is a bottleneck of demand: large numbers of graduates who are passionate about working in the space sector compete for limited graduate roles, yet the competition for roles from candidates with 5 to 10 years of experience in the sector is lower. So it’s important to stand out and find your route in. This degree is a fantastic opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition. The high-quality, relevant material taught on the course will prepare you well for a career in the space sector. I would also advise you to work hard at your degree, since it will open more doors for you which increases your chances of obtaining that dream job!

Find out more about MSc Space Engineering.