Michael Buttery

Attended WHS

1997 - 2002

Current occupation

Project Scientist / Manager

Industry sector

Space industy


ESR Technology

Current location

Northwich, Cheshire


Alumni spotlight: Michael Buttery

Like a lot of people during their time at high school, Michael Buttery didn't know for sure what he wanted to do as a future career. Early ambitions of becoming either an archaeologist, a rock star, a teacher or even an astronaut were all quietly dismissed.

After leaving Withernsea High in 2002, Michael went on to Wilberforce College to study A-Level Maths, Physics, Music and IT. In his words, "I chose those subjects simply because I enjoyed them and I was good at them."  Michael left the college in 2004 with a strong set of grades but without definite career ambitions.

He knew that he wanted to go to University but the next dilemma he faced was deciding what to study. He ruled out a degree in Music as he felt working within the music industry wouldn't offer him the stability he sought in life.

Maths, his self-declared "strongest subject", was also ruled out on the basis that he didn't want to spend three years looking at complex equations and risk becoming bored by it.

Physics, which he refers to as "Maths with pictures", seemed like a good option as it took elements of both subjects and made them more appealing by combing the complex equations of Mathematics with the interesting imagery of Physics. Unfortunately, Michael only enjoyed certain elements of Physics and didn't feel as though he connected with the subject enough as a whole to pursue it at University. He was looking for something with, in his words, "more exciting pictures".

As a child, Michael always had a fascination with space and a desire to learn more about it. The "more exciting pictures" he craved were to be found on the pages of books about the universe. This interest, coupled with his love of various elements of Physics, ultimately led him to embark on an Astrophysics degree at Liverpool University.  

Four "fun but difficult" years later, Michael graduated with a first class degree in Astrophysics. Soon after, a job interview with Warrington-based ESR Technology, one of the UK's leading engineering consultancies to the Space industry, secured him a job as a Project Scientist and a career in the subject he loves. 

Components he has worked on are now orbiting the earth 353 miles above our heads as part of the Hubble Space Telescope. He has travelled around Europe and beyond to present his research to fellow scientists and has twice been invited to speak at NASA's headquarters in America, where on one occasion he was witness to the final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.     

Not at all bad for a boy from Burton Pidsea!

14 years after leaving, Michael returned to Withernsea High School last week (w/c 4th July 2016) to speak to a group of Year 8 students as part of a careers event showcasing the successes of former students.

Michael recently signed up to our Alumni and his entry can be found below. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for visiting the school and for speaking to our students.


What memories do you have of your time at Withernsea High School?

Lots. I'll try and pick a few of the strongest...

 - Performing in 'Young Musician of the Year' (an annual contest held at the school throughout the 1990s and early 2000s) and coming last in every category!

 - The Campus Carol Concert (another annual event featuring performances from students of all three Withernsea schools) at the end of 2001 where I performed 'I want to break free" by Queen with various teachers and students.

 - Mr Cartwright (former DT Teacher) demonstrating why we use LEDs instead of traditional bulbs by throwing one against the wall, then using it in a circuit to show that it still worked.

 - Year 8 / 9 Mr McKirdy (former English Teacher) showing us an episode of the Simpsons and getting us to 'dissect' it using the same techniques we used on Shakespeare to demonstrate that a) Shakespeare was very much the 'pop' culture of the time, and b)    Most of the 'hidden' meanings in the text were just made up by historians in the subsequent years, and he probably just wrote the plays to pay the gas bill!

 - Going into town and getting chips pretty much every day. Then feeding the chips to the seagulls on the beach and getting back late for the first lesson after lunch (normally French).

 - Getting dragged out of a French lesson in Year 10 to play guitar on another student's practical music performance of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', and playing really really badly!

 - Writing 'Ms Gullekson 4 Mr Short' at the top of her whiteboard, then hiding her little stool so she couldn't reach it to wipe it off!

 - Hanging out in the music room and playing the 12-string guitar.

Who or what inspired you at school; who or what was the greatest influence?

The music teachers Mr Townsend and Mr Keith. My career hasn't gone down a musical path, but it's still a huge part of my life and these two teachers made school much more enjoyable.

Also, my Year 10 and 11 Maths teacher (Mr Cork) for allowing me to work at my own pace when I already understood the planned lesson. Most other teachers wouldn't have done that.

What part did Withernsea High School play in getting you where you are today?

The teachers mentioned above and all those who taught me to think for myself and not just blindly accept what was shown to me. I think that quality has made me a good scientist.

Please tell us about your education since leaving Withernsea High School

Wilberforce College (2002 - 04) - A-Levels in Maths, Physics, Music, and IT.

University of Liverpool (2004 - 08) - MPhys Astrophysics (1st class hons)
University of Central Lancashire (2012 - current) - PhD Tribotechnology

Please tell us any interesting facts about yourself. Any claims to fame? Any personal achievements that you’re particularly proud of?

My work for the European Space Agency has resulted in me travelling to various conferences around the world to present my research. These have mostly been around Europe (The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Austria), but I've also been invited to NASA twice - including once to watch the final launch of the Atlantis shuttle, which was pretty awesome.

Besides work my greatest achievements are probably running the Liverpool Marathon in 2012 for Parkinsons UK, travelling across India, and trekking the Inca Trail in Peru.


What advice would you pass on to our students today?

Question everything. 'Just because' is never an answer.


We wish Michael the very best of luck for everything the future brings. We look forward to welcoming him back to the school again in the near future and to keeping you updated with his career progress.

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