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Macro October

Longer term readers of this blog who follow me on Twitter may realise that I have posted considerably fewer posts here since I’ve been ‘micro-blogging’. The podcasts resumed in October, and the show notes posts were regular through the autumn. The non-podcast blog posts in between were less common. Here is a catchup post for October and an attempt at a promise to update more regularly.

The slide began over the summer. Back in September I noticed the Turing apology on Twitter the day after it happened, yet I didn’t get around to posting a blog post for 3 weeks, as “Turing apology“.

I resumed my IMA visits on 7 October 2009 with a trip to UEA, where I recorded podcast episode 47 with Mark Blyth. This event should have given me something to write about but in fact I didn’t get around to posting a blog post about it when the next day I went to NTU and gave my careers talk twice. This meant I had three visits to write about by the time I had been to Liverpool the following week, giving my careers talk at Liverpool John Moores, where I was asked about placements. One student felt that what I was saying about maths graduates having the skills needed by business was wrong because at a recent careers fair she had been told by several employers that all they required was a 2:1 or above and the degree subject didn’t matter. I tried to point out that the job of a recruiter at a careers fair was a marketing one, generally to attract as many applicants as possible. This, I claimed, doesn’t affect your chances of getting the job. And it depends what type of job you are going for.

Following this I met Andrea Donafee, who spoke to me for podcast 48, and to Sebastien Guenneau about his work in invisibility cloaks at the University of Liverpool for podcast 50. At Liverpool, I spoke on careers at lunchtime and on puzzles in the evening. The puzzles talk was organised by Joel Haddley and he had invited an audience of sixth formers without telling me, which was a bit scary! But the talk seemed to go well and I got some positive comments at the end. I was pleased to hear Joel sent off an IMA application form.

By total coincidence, the 42nd week of the year was also the anniversary of the publication of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and the week I released episode 42. The number fact for the episode, of course, referred to the Guide.

The following week, I spoke at and took a stall to a careers fair at Kingston. I spent most of the day giving the IMA’s new Assistant Director the benefit of my views on all aspects of my work, which was quite fun. But something wasn’t right that day with my talk – I don’t know if it was nerves at being watched by the new Assistant Director, but my timings during my careers talk weren’t right and the whole thing felt a little flat.

By sharp contrast, I was much happier with my careers talk performance at Lancaster the following week. From my Twitter post: “Got the audience reactions I hope for: they gasp, they laugh, they consider!” Later that day I gave my cryptography talk to the Maths and Statistics Society (MASS) at Lancaster, which was recently formed with an IMA grant. The next day I travelled into Manchester and spoke at Manchester Metropolitan University. My careers talk went well there and I even overheard a student at the end sounding surprised saying: “I’m actually glad I came”! I attended my second Calculating Careers Fair at Manchester, which was a good experience again. In the evening I went to Bolton and gave my careers talk one more time before heading home. Despite some exhaustion and questions I didn’t know how to answer about further study, I think this went well. One the way home, the worse for a busy couple of days, I wrote my piece for Mathematics Today in December and was worried I might have “gushed” a little. You can read this as “Improving graduate skills through an undergraduate conference” and judge for yourself. The topic of that piece was the Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today conference, the provisional programme for which has recently been announced. The conference is supported by the IMA and takes place at the University of Greenwich on 6 February 2010. The deadline for registration is Thursday 28 January 2010.

Also in October I was shown a room at the University of Nottingham which offers recording of lectures at the press of a button, a facility I ultimately used to record the lecture I gave on cryptography for the History of maths and x in December.

At the end of the month, I noticed that episode 40 of the podcast had been released on the first anniversary of episode 1 of the podcast – to the day. I will have to try to remember 4 October in future!

This takes us into November, and I will leave that for another post.

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