Bridget Donaldson is heading to Oxford University next month to start a Master of Science (MSc) in energy systems.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got the offer,” she said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to go to Oxford but it’s actually the course itself that I’m most excited about.”
The 24-year-old has her sights set on joining the military as a pilot.
"I had hoped to apply this summer but Covid prevented that so instead I’m just building up my other experiences in the hope of getting in next year,” said Bridget.
Bridget, from Cambo, near Morpeth, has already packed an extraordinary amount into the five years since she left King Edward VI School.
She went to Newcastle University to study geophysics and surveying and took up an exchange programme with Durham University part way through her degree.
After graduating in July 2019 she went to CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland on a future accelerator studies team where she worked on an upgrade to the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
“It was a dream come true to work there,” said Bridget. "It only gets switched off once every 10 years so I was fortunate that the maintenance period coincided with when I was there and I could help with the inspections.”
After finishing her internship at CERN, she joined Tui in January to experience summer as a member of cabin crew only for her time there to be cut short due to Covid-19.
Instead, she joined a team at Croydon University Hospital in London working as a Covid-19 nursing assistant helping with personal patient care such as washing, feeding and being a friend to patients.
"I loved it and was offered a position to work as a nurse. They were going to pay for me to do a degree but I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career.
"At the same time it probably triggered some thoughts about going back to university and I decided that would be something I’d be interested in,” she said.
Now, she has been awarded a space scholarship with the European Space Agency and is about to complete a two-week intensive course based out of Belgium focusing on spacecraft operations and engineering as well as astronaut training and input into space missions.
Her love of flying began when she joined Morpeth air cadets at the age of 12.
She won several flying scholarships which enabled her to complete her private pilot’s licence and she has also volunteered as a flying instructor, taking other cadets on flying lessons at RAF Topcliffe.
At university, she moved on to serving in the RAF reserves with the University Air Squadron at RAF Leeming.
"It was being in the cadets that really sparked my interest in aviation,” she said. “It made me realise that any ‘normal’ person like me could look towards being a pilot as long as they worked hard,” she said.