Hard working, self-assured and disciplined, Drew Milgate has an innate determination that belies his young age of 18.
The former Minds Inspired Scholar and a current William A. Dart Scholarship recipient is also someone to look up to, especially if you’re a Cayman-based student leaning toward the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM.
Last month, Drew returned to Grand Cayman for his holiday break after completing his first term at the prestigious University of Cambridge, where he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in engineering.
“You’re definitely aware that you’re part of something big,” says Drew of Cambridge. “It’s a big institution and everyone is there because they are really passionate about their subjects. In my group of engineers, there is a lot of cooperation. It’s friendly competition and more cooperation than I was expecting.”
He says that everyone who applies to Cambridge has good grades, but it’s what they’ve done beyond their work that sets them apart. For Drew, that includes participating in the Cambridge Lower Sixth Chemistry Challenge and earning Roentgenium, the highest award, which only 0.76% of students achieve — all while studying his A Levels at Brighton College in the UK.
This result secured him a place at a residential chemistry camp at Cambridge, and upon his graduation at Brighton, Drew received the prestigious Bayliss-Smith prize for physics, and department awards for physics and chemistry. He also consistently received the Headmaster’s Award each year.
Born and raised in the Cayman Islands, Drew’s academic journey began at Cayman Prep & High School, which he attended before heading off to Brighton at age 16. He says that although both his parents are “numbers people,” they always encouraged him to do what he likes.
“I always grasped onto building things and technical subjects,” he says. “I was always technologically and mathematically inclined and enjoyed those subjects more,” he says. After backpacking through Europe with friends from Brighton this past summer, he travelled to the Dart Container Corporation in Mason, Michigan, to spend a week with their team of mechanical engineers and operational specialists, which helped him in deciding to pursue engineering at Cambridge.
“Maybe without this exposure I wouldn’t have chosen engineering and I may have picked something else like chemistry or physics,” he says. His current first-year courses include math, electronics and circuitry, mechanics and structural mechanics, as well as lab sessions like robotics and programming. So far, things are going really well, although he says the biggest challenge is that nobody tells him to do the work.
“You don’t get given a piece of work with a due date,” he says. “You have lectures and what we call ‘examples papers.’ It’s your job to pick up the example paper when it’s out and it’s your job to complete work and bring to your supervisor when it’s done.”
Drew does have a few study tips and tricks that have proven to work well for him — and, oddly, none of it involves reading. “The best way to study, especially technical subjects, is to just get a big block of questions, find past paper questions or questions from your textbook and start working through them,” he says. “If you find something you can’t do, go back, reference your notes and maybe relearn it; but just working through questions will show you where you are deficient and where you are good, and it will prepare you for what the exams will be. I find reading, reorganising notes and researching doesn’t do a lot when it comes to your exams.”
When not studying, he does carve out time for fun. “I like a bit of sport. Running at night is really nice, especially with the cooler weather because you can go a lot longer without overheating.”
He’s also joined the Cambridge University Eco Racing organisation, and will be attending the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia later this year with his teammates who will have designed and built a solar car from scratch to race 3,000 kilometres across the country.
“Of course, I’m a first year student, so my contribution will be minor.” As for his dream job, Drew hasn’t decided yet. He is drawn to mechanical or aerospace engineering, but his electronics courses are starting to become interesting, as well as programming.
Wherever his future jobs take him, one thing is for certain — his heart will always be in the Cayman Islands.
“I definitely miss the pace of life and atmosphere,” he says. “You can just step outside and it’s warm. It can be an afternoon and everything is quite calm. Nothing ever stops at university. Sometimes you want to stop and take a breath and you can’t do that anymore.”
Drew says he is very grateful for the opportunities Cayman has afforded him, especially the support he has received from Minds Inspired. “It’s definitely been a nice push in the direction of STEM to be surrounded by people who say, ‘You can do it,’ and ‘This is something really valued in the world today,’” he says. “They enabled a lot of what I wanted to do.”