Crisis and Careers in Edinburgh

I have had a somewhat fraught day in Edinburgh. I gave a careers talk hosted by Dugald Duncan at Heriot-Watt University in the late morning. This was well attended and went perfectly well. I even made contact with a student who is in the process of forming a Mathsoc at that university and encouraged him to consider a University Liaison Grant application. There is a picture of a statue of James Watt at Heriot-Watt below.

James Watt statue
Next I went to the University of Edinburgh for the afternoon. First I had lunch with Liam O’Carroll who organised the afternoon then we were joined by a group of postgraduate students and staff for tea and biscuits in a “Meet Peter Rowlett” session. Following this I was due to give a talk and on arrival at the room I realised I had left my laptop at Heriot-Watt. Crisis! I phoned Heriot-Watt and Pat Hampton offered to go to the room to look for it. I had to give my talk on a laptop provided by a member of the audience, David Mitchell. At the end of the talk I received word from the School Office that my laptop had been found safely at Heriot-Watt and I should phone to arrange collection of it but no time for that, I was on to my next appointment! I spoke briefly at the start of the staff meeting about my work with the IMA, which was a fairly intimidating affair, particularly being, as I was, slightly flustered by events so far. Then I was able to phone Heriot-Watt and arrange for them to send my laptop over in a taxi. David took me to a cash machine and waited with me for the taxi but we were still waiting as the time crept up to the second showing of my careers talk. I had to go and give the talk so David offered to wait for the taxi for me and collect my laptop. I went and gave my talk again and again it went well. Attendance at both talks was good, particularly given that it was Friday afternoon so I was pleased with this. After the talk I met up with David and my laptop is fine. I recorded podcast episodes with David and Mike Maher and then retired to the pub with David and some of his fellow PhD students for a relaxing drink at the end of a very stressful afternoon.

I am extremely grateful to both Pat Hampton and David Mitchell for their help with my laptop crisis. Without their involvement I could not have come to a happy solution. I think the talks in Edinburgh went well and were well attended despite my self-imposed crisis.


Thursday was Glasgow day in my Scottish tour. I started the day by travelling to Glasgow. The picture below is of George Square which is very impressive but somewhat affected by the rain. I have received mixed opinions of the rain in Glasgow with some people telling me it rains at least every other day and others telling me it is mostly sunny. On my day there it was grey and rainy.

George Square
The picture below is of the main gate at the University of Glasgow, which is not where I gave my talk. In the maths building I passed a pleasant hour with Professor David Fearn discussing my work for the IMA and the proposed merger with the LMS. Professor Nick Hill took me to lunch and for a tour of campus including the houses where once the 12 university professors lived, including at one time Lord Kelvin, and the River Kelvin from which his title was derived. After this, Professor Peter Kropholler hosted me for my careers talk to what turned out to be a surprisingly small group of students. The talk went well and felt nicely intimate but it was a shame not to have seem more students.

University of Glasgow main gate
Next I travelled to the University of Strathclyde. My talk was in the Livingstone Tower and there is a picture of a statue of David Livingstone below. I met with Professor Iain Stewart who organised my talk which I gave to a reasonably large crowd and it seemed to go well.

David Livingstone statue
After my talk in the staff room at Strathclyde I took the following snap. I was pleased to see iSquared among the available publications. In the course of my careers talk I always ask students if they read iSquared and Plus magazines. Not many do, actually, so perhaps these need greater promotion. I think both give a good idea of the range of career options and areas of work open to maths graduates that they are not necessarily aware of otherwise.

iSquared in staff room

Careers in the home of golf

From Aberdeen I moved on to St. Andrews. On the train I was in awe of the scenery which was quite beautiful but my only opportunity to stop and take pictures was when I was at Leuchars station waiting for the bus, which was unusually unremarkable. On the approach to St. Andrews we passed a sign “Welcome to St. Andrews – The home of golf” but my only view of the famous course was when it was too dark to see it.

Once in St. Andrews it was starting to lose the light so I took a couple of pictures from the bus station (below) before I had dinner with the Chaosoc committee.

St. Andrews 1St. Andrews 2
After dinner we moved on to one of the St. Andrews university buildings where I gave my careers talk. This was well received by a fairly large turn out. A lady from the university careers service was keen to reiterate most of the content of the talks to the students at the end of the talk and was able to remind the students how the careers service can help them. It is good to have a local contact speak for a couple of minutes at the end of my talk to reinforce how the students can access careers advice locally. After the talk I was given a tour of the town by the Chaosoc President Alistair Wallis. Then the committee and I retired to the pub before I was given a lift back to the railway station.


On Wednesday I went to Aberdeen and had lunch with Garry Brindley, Chair of the IMA Scottish Branch in the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, where I saw a scale model of an oil rig.

I then travelled to the University of Aberdeen where I gave my careers talk to the Maths Club. This was well received in a nice, informal setting by a lively bunch of students. In attendance was Vivien Ellins from TechFest-SetPoint and she was able to say something to the students about their work bringing graduates to present maths masterclasses in schools. Pictured below are a couple of pictures I took wandering around campus; the second is the Meston Building where I gave my talk.

Aberdeen UniversityMeston Building, Aberdeen University
Aberdeen is lovely and the weather was great and it is a shame I was only able to stay for about 3 hours in all. In between being a bit lost and other activities I remembered to take some pictures (below) of and from Union Street.


Talk to Scottish Branch

On Tuesday after teaching a class at Nottingham Trent 10am-12noon I jumped on the 12.45pm train to Edinburgh. I arrived at 5.30pm and by 6.30pm I was giving a talk to the IMA Scottish Branch. Busy day!

The invite to my talk went to staff and postgraduate students at Napier University and IMA members more generally in the Branch. I gave most of the content from my careers talk but filled this out with some background on the University Liaison initiative and some of my activities, including other talks, careers fairs, the RUMS group, University Liaison Grants, Mathematics Today and the Student Section, the Younger Members Group, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, this blog, my Twitter page and the podcast.

I’m happy to report that a member of the audience has already passed on what I said, including a link to this blog and the Maths Careers website from the maths4edinburgh blog.

Careers in Cardiff

I spent a very enjoyable overnight stay in Cardiff. I gave my careers talk at the School of Mathematics, University of Cardiff (pictured below) and had lunch afterwards with Julie Hepburn, who acts as the AGCAS half of our AGCAS-IMA link. We talked about the ways we can work together to promote maths careers. Recently Julie distributed an email to careers advisors on my behalf talking about the good careers resources available from the IMA directly and through the Maths Careers project and offering to give careers talks, etc.

School of Mathematics, University of Cardiff
While I was in Cardiff I met Gareth Howell of the IMA Younger Members Group for a drink and I did indeed do what the bridge says and drink Brain’s (below; if ever there were a need for misapplication of an apostrophe! Just one small grammatically correct mark away from being a zombie direction).

Sign on bridge reads: It's Brain's you want

Podcast Episode 18: Jane Wess, Science Museum

These are the show notes for episode 18 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 18 is the only number that is twice the sum of its digits. More about the number 18 from Number Gossip.

For episode 18 I visited the Science Museum where Jane Wess told me about the mathematics collection. To accompany this episode there is a video of Jane demonstrating Napier’s Bones.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting