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Mathematics Today August 2010: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Now this is not the end

I am leaving my employment with the IMA. I am going to take up a post as HE Curriculum Innovation Adviser for the Maths, Stats and OR Network as part of the mathematics strand of the National HE STEM Programme, until July 2012. I have enjoyed my work with the IMA immensely and feel some regret at leaving, but my interests have always been drawn to HE maths education and the role in Birmingham combines my interests very well.

I have worked for the IMA since January 2008 and, with your help, I have been engaged with an active programme of engagement with university students in the past two academic years. For example, over three semesters, spring 2009, autumn 2009 and spring 2010 I have given 74 IMA ‘Clement W. Jones Lectures’ to nearly 2,300 maths students and over 150 staff at 47 universities. And there are more understated influences, for example I designed and sent IMA leaflets to every maths department and every careers service in a university with a maths department in the country. I do some part time work at the University of Nottingham and I know the pile of IMA leaflets in the foyer there has been quite depleted over the last month or so of the academic year. Hopefully, this pattern has been replicated elsewhere. I sincerely hope this work will be reflected in the graduate recruitment numbers in this and future years.

I hope I leave the University Liaison programme in a good state. Here are four areas of activity in particular that I think will be important for engagement with university students and graduates in the future:

  • e-student: The IMA is working on an initiative to allow students a free ‘e-membership’ via the website. Students will be able to sign up to an area of the IMA website and get access to interesting and helpful content. There are many pressures on student finances and students are often not aware of the benefits they might find in joining the IMA, so this free signup to an area of the website will give students an opportunity to find out about the IMA and why they might want to join as Associate Members when they graduate. I see no reason why any student would not want to sign up for this service, with the result that many more graduates per year ought to be aware of, and join, the Institute.
  • Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today conferences: The first Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today conference was the inspired idea of Noel-Ann Bradshaw and Tony Mann, who organised the conference at the University of Greenwich in spring 2010. At this conference undergraduate students presented on topics of interest to them and the event was a marvellous opportunity for students to practice their skills and take part in the wider mathematics community. The University Liaison programme has agreed to fund further Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today conferences at Manchester in autumn 2010 and at London Metropolitan in spring 2011. I think these have the opportunity to be the IMA’s flagship events for undergraduate engagement and have a real impact on the Institute’s future.
  • Professional networking: For postgraduates and early career mathematicians, the Early Career Mathematicians’ Group goes from strength to strength, providing an opportunity to meet others in a similar situation and to engage with other mathematicians in academia and industry.
  • Providing excellent careers resources: Recent months have seen the re-launched Maths Careers website make substantial improvements as a resource for student career advice and inspiration. If you haven’t visited it recently I encourage you to do so. My podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World, has released around 60 ten minute audio recordings of mathematicians speaking in their own words about their work, maths history and maths news stories. I will not be releasing any new episodes, but this will continue to be a resource for undergraduate students’ career inspiration via www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk

Although I am leaving this role with the IMA, I am not going so far away. I continue to be a Member and to work on the committee of the East Midlands Branch. Perhaps I will meet some of you as part of my new job as well. I trust you will all continue to evangelise for the IMA, helping to make students and early career colleagues aware of the Institute and the reasons you are a member. Remember that you get more out of your membership the more you are willing to put in, that membership has many advantages for individuals and that the Institute benefits from a strong and active membership.

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