On the way home from my 6 monthly review of the University Liaison Project (sorry? Oh, really well, thanks for asking) I was on the train listening to music through my headphones & tapping away on my laptop. At Leicester or Loughborough two lads got on and sat opposite me. A girl across the aisle had got on too and was talking to them in a defensive way about how much maths there was in her course: “yeah there’s quite a bit of physics and some maths too”. One of the lads remarked “Is there any solid state physics?” and they laughed. In my experience, peer pressure doesn’t work this way round!

After a while, one of them nudged the other and said “look, we’ve sat at the right table.” They were looking at the IMA sticker on the top of my laptop. I didn’t acknowledge that I’d heard – I had a report to work on. As we were pulling into the station I heard one of them say to the other, “I might contact them, you know, to ask what careers you can do with maths.” I quietly reached into my bag and pulled out my emergency Maths Careers postcard and slid it across the table to him. He laughed and said he would check out the website. Turns out he’s a physics undergrad interested in the mathematics side of things. He is looking at defence jobs at the moment. I told him I know a lot of mathematicians who work in this area, and that the Maths Careers website carries some good careers advice. He was still clutching the postcard when he left the station onto the streets of Nottingham, on the way to the outdoor skating rink in the market square.

Of course, this is the very opposite of the leverage I wrote about in Mathematics Today December.