Student Rachel in 'The Shed' workshop

Kent Stars: Rolls-Royce Researcher Rachel

This month’s Kent Star is Rachel Muir, who won targetjobs Undergraduate of the Year Award Celebrating Neurodiverse Talent. Rachel explains why she applied (spoiler – it was a bigger competition that she realised!), how she is finding her internship at Rolls-Royce and her advice for other students. Hear from Rolls-Royce Researcher Rachel:

“Hello everyone, I’m Rachel! I’m currently in my penultimate year of computer science and working towards starting a PhD in software verification. Outside of academia, I enjoy spending time in The Shed, within Cornwallis, where Tinker Soc is held. Designing different projects and working on them with friends is one of my favourite activities. In the evenings, I love free-style ice skating, bike rides down the incredible Canterbury bike trails and spending time with my friends through activities such as guitar or gaming.”

Rachel stood outside "The Shed" in Cornwallis

Tell us about winning targetjobs Undergraduate of the Year Award Celebrating Neurodiverse Talent.

“My original impression of the Undergraduate of the Year award was that I was applying for an internship with Rolls-Royce. Later I found out that it was a UK-wide competition that held quite a lot of weight. It was quite the shock to find out the scale of the award and I certainly felt out of my depth.

However, as time went on, I met some fellow contestants online who were shortlisted for winning, and others who worked at R2 Factory, connected to the internship. Getting to know the other contestants, and learning more about who would be attending the awards and what the experience would be like, was a great comfort for me. I’d never been to a large event in front of so many people, and as someone who usually remains out of the attention of others, this was a new challenge.

On the day of the awards, I got to meet all the shortlisted contestants in person as well as James Corbin, Head of Careers and Employability at Kent, whom I was really glad came to support me! It was amazing to meet others who had made it to the award ceremony, and knowing they were also neurodiverse gave me a sense of pride and recognition for us achieving something amazing. With 300 people in the room, there was certainly an atmosphere of excitement, anticipation and nerves. Hearing the backstories for the awards was a reminder that one person can reach such a vast number of people, and you could see the emotional effect some of the awards had on the room.

As overwhelmed as I was when it was announced, I was honoured to win the award for the neurodiversity category and humbled by all the different challenges overcome and accomplishments from the other winners and short-listed contestants. I’ve really enjoyed the first couple of weeks of the internship learning so many new things, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 weeks brings me.”

What advice would you give to other students?

“I said earlier that I didn’t quite understand the scale of the award when I first applied. This may have been the reason I didn’t hesitate much when applying, as if I knew the scale, I may have assumed I couldn’t win and never applied.

I would urge anyone to apply for anything that piques their interest, whether it’s an award or an opportunity that arises. Even if you have doubts about how far you may get, or whether you have a chance of winning, you can always give it a go. If you’re interested about a subject, why would you not be able to do it?”

Rachel soldering

What are your plans for the next year?

“I hope to travel during the summer and explore a little bit more of England, and the world. I would like to try and incorporate some small coding camps or competitions during my travel and gain more experience. Hopefully I will learn more about programming, but my favourite part of travelling is learning about other people’s backgrounds, cultures, what they’ve learnt and what I can learn from them. After my final year ends, my intention is to start a PhD and see where it leads me.”

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