Yesterday I visited the University of Greenwich and gave a talk on mathematics careers. This was an enjoyable experience and seemed to go well. The format was that I was followed by a lecturer from Greenwich, Dr Mayur Patel, who gave a CV writing session. I think this format, combining a, hopefully, inspiring careers talk with a practical career management skills session was a brilliant idea. Noel-Ann Bradshaw has written a kind post over on the IMA Representatives of University Mathematical Societies blog, on the back of which I have received at least one more invite to give this talk at another university.
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Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich has been trying to get a group of London Universities together to cross promote events. In London there is such a concentration of universities and such a lot going on that it makes sense to cross-promote events between students at different universities. Anyway, this group is going well and Noel-Ann has posted 3 new events on the Facebook group “London University Maths Societies – IMA”, namely:
“The man who invented the concept of pi: William Jones and his circle”
by Patricia Rothman
William Jones was important in his lifetime primarily for three things: he was the first person to use the Greek letter π in its modern sense; he had acquired such a significant archive of manuscripts that he was appointed to the Royal Society committee, to investigate the invention of calculus; and he was influential as communicator in a network of mathematicians, astronomers and natural philosophers in the early eighteenth century.
This lecture will also touch on the lives of some of the notable characters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who contributed to his story.
22 January 2009 13:15 – 13:55
Darwin Lecture Theatre, UCL
Facebook event; UCL page.
Finding Moonshine: A Mathematician’s Journey Through Symmetry”
by Marcus du Sautoy
Symmetry is all around us. Our eyes and minds are drawn to symmetrical objects, from the sphere to the swastika, from the pyramid to the pentagon. Of fundamental significance to the way we interpret the world around us, this unique, all-pervasive phenomenon indicates a dynamic relationship between objects. In chemistry and physics, the concept of symmetry explains the structure of crystals or the theory of fundamental particles. In evolutionary biology, the natural world exploits symmetry in the fight for survival. What’s more, symmetry – and the breaking of it – are central to ideas in art, architecture and music. This talk takes a unique look into the mathematical mind as Marcus explores deep conjectures about symmetry. These conjectures have culminated in the most exciting discovery to date – the summit of mathematicians’ mastery in the field – the Monster, a huge snowflake that lives in 196,883-dimensional space with more symmetries than there are atoms in the sun.
3 February 2009 18:00 – 20:00
Oliver Thompson lecture theatre, City University
Facebook event; City University page; The book; Marcus’ blog.
“Bertrand Russell: Man of Dissent”
by Ivor Grattan-Guinness
16 February 2009 6.30-8pm
New Theatre, East Building, LSE
Russell argued against the Great War, but he also wanted to drop atomic bombs on the Soviet Union after WWII, and later advocated nuclear disarmament. How could a great logician accommodate such inconsistencies? How, as a private citizen, did he make such a world-wide impact?
Ivor Grattan-Guinness is Emeritus Professor of the History of Mathematics and Logic at Middlesex University, and an associate member of CPNSS. He has written widely on Russell’s logic and philosophy, and has been an Advisory Editor on the Russell ‘Collected papers’ edition since its inception in 1979.
Facebook event; LSE page.
If you are in London or can get there sometimes I would recommend joining the London Maths Facebook group for event notifications.
The right lever to move the world
The new academic year has brought a mass of activity and potential opportunities. I am keen to spread the IMA message as widely as possible so thoughts turn to how my activities can be distributed to as many students as possible. So it is that I have begun several new initiatives.
Starting with the October issue, selected articles from Mathematics Today are distributed electronically to student groups with whom I have a contact or other student reps where no such group exists. These contacts will then redistribute the electronic Mathematics Today to students within their universities. This means that, perhaps as you read this, I will be reading through and picking a selection of articles from this copy of Mathematics Today that I think are of interest to students. Students will receive links to PDFs that are active for a limited period. I am also sending each student group a print copy of Mathematics Today for them to display at their events. The intention is that by receiving some of the content from Mathematics Today, students might begin to gain awareness of the IMA and the role it can play in their lives post-graduation. Certainly, we can hope that more students will be exposed to the IMA through this method than could be by my actions in person. And with the quality content in Mathematics Today we can be assured that the exposure will be meaningful as well as wide-reaching. If you would like students at your university to receive Mathematics Today please contact me at email@example.com.
A second activity I have begun is a podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World, which features mathematicians talking about their work and careers, as well as Maths History features from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and Maths News roundups with Sarah Shepherd of iSquared Magazine. This has been running for a few weeks now and the response I have had so far has been positive with students I have spoken to keen to hear from ‘real life mathematicians’. At a Mathsoc event at the University of Greenwich I was approached by a student who said “I was listening to you this morning.” It took me a moment to realise what she meant! You can listen to episodes and download the podcast at http://www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk/. Any promotion you can provide for this is most welcome.
Thirdly (and I won’t say “finally”!), my relationships with university mathematical societies continue to increase in number. Through a group I am calling Representatives of University Mathematical Societies (RUMS), I am able to keep in touch with students at a wide range of universities through a single contact at each. Universities that do not have such student groups often have a student representative on some staff-student liaison group and sometimes it is possible for this student to act as my point of contact, or simply another keen student. So RUMS membership now includes students from universities without mathematical societies. This group is a huge advantage to my interactions as the task of maintaining a current list of students would be impractical. And there is, I think, a clear advantage to the students themselves in already participating in the mathematical community. If you are in touch with a student group, or know your university doesn’t have one but can think of another student who may be able to help, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have set up a new blog for the members of the RUMS group to post news from their activities and share ideas. As I travel I am made aware of the different groups who all have similar goals and are all running into the same issues and this blog is designed for groups to share this experience. Particularly, I meet new student groups and it is good to be able to point them to the blog for inspiration. In the Student Section this time I have collected a few snippets of news from the blog. The blog is available at imarums.blogspot.com.
Activities Sept-Oct 2008
Last time I mentioned a questionnaire that I have distributed to universities through our network of IMA University Representatives and I am glad to say that responses have been coming in through this period. I have a 37% response rate with questionnaires returned from 27 universities.
During September I made several trips to Birmingham. First, I met with the IMA’s new liaison with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Julie Hepburn from the Cardiff University Careers Service. We had a chat about what AGCAS and the IMA can do together. I’ve also visited the more maths grads project, who do some great work in mathematics enrichment at school level. We are exploring ways we can work together in areas we overlap, particularly on careers advice. Lastly, I attended the LMS Popular Lectures 2008 and grabbed 5 minutes with the Co-Chair of the Mathsoc at Birmingham and I am happy to report they are now successful University Liaison Grant applicants.
In October, I visited the University of Leicester and met with the enthusiastic bunch who are the committee for the student group there. Those who enjoy a bit of wordplay will enjoy the name: Student Union Maths Society (SUMS).
Next came my small part in following the New Unified Mathematics Society tour. I visited Newcastle, York, Leeds, Warwick and my home city of Nottingham with the Presidents of the IMA and LMS, David Abrahams and Brian Davies, respectively. It was really useful to go to universities I have not yet had the chance to visit and I have made some useful contacts there. I took the opportunity to catch up with the Mathsoc at Newcastle, who have recently made their second successful University Liaison Grant application and the more maths grads regional base in Leeds.
I visited the University of Greenwich for a talk organised by the MathSoc there on “Thinking Mathematically” by John Mason. Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich is looking to organise a grouping of London Universities who can look to cross-promote events and I stopped on my way across London to meet the President of the Maths Society at Imperial College.
Finally I rounded off the month in Manchester, where I attended a mathematics specific careers event, “Calculating Careers”. I operated a stall at this with a mixture of careers advice, IMA materials and last but certainly not least a set of puzzles. This did lead to an afternoon of me calling out to passing students:”Fancy playing a game?” but it also led to all those students going home with a “Maths Matters” postcard from the Maths Careers website (http://www.mathscareers.org.uk/) and a copy of the Mathematics Today article Careers for Mathematicians1 under their arms, and hopefully some raised awareness of the IMA. I was told afterwards that my stall had seen the most activity at the fair so there is something to be said for baiting mathematicians with intellectual curiosities!
You can find out more about the University Liaison initiative by visiting the IMA Student page or reading my blog, both via: www.ima.org.uk/student.
1. BRIAULT, S., 2008. Careers for Mathematicians. Mathematics Today, 44(3), pp. 117-118.
Last week I attended an event of the University of Greenwich Mathsoc, “Thinking Mathematically and Learning Mathematics Mathematically” by John Mason. This was very enjoyable, with some interesting problems to highlight aspects of the way people think about mathematics. Nice to exercise my mathematical muscle every now and then.
I took the opportunity when crossing London to meet the President of the Imperial College Mathsoc briefly. At Greenwich I was able to meet the President of the MathSoc there and some his committee, and to pick up a copy of the new issue of their newsletter, The Prime Times. After the talk we retired to a pub on the Greenwich shore of the Thames with a big window looking over the river to Canary Wharf. I got into a conversation about whether mathematicians are being used as scapegoats in the credit crunch with a maths & economics student.
As I have been on leave over much of the rainy summer, I wrote a shorter than usual report for Mathematics Today October.
I am happy to report the IMA Younger Members Committee has taken enthusiastically to the Facebook group and has set up groups on other social networking sites LinkedIn and MySpace. Those of you who are on one of those online communities can join the IMA group and get involved. You should be able to find the group by searching “Institute of Mathematics and its Applications UK”.
For other online activities, October will see the launch of a new podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World. This will feature a series of pieces from people I have met on my travels as ULO. Interesting mathematicians talk about their careers and interesting work they have done. There will be travels in time as well as space with a monthly maths history feature from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and the British Society for the History of Mathematics. Finally we will round off each month with a maths news roundup from Sarah Shepherd, editor of iSquared magazine (incidentally, look out for the IMA adverts on the back covers of upcoming issues of iSquared). You can subscribe to the podcast by visiting www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk.
Activities July–August 2008
This is a brief report as I have been taking my annual leave during August while the universities are on their rainy summer break. I have been making the most of my time away however with an email going to heads of mathematics departments nationwide. This suggests activities where I can work with universities and I have had contact from several new student mathematics societies as a result. If you are in touch with such a group please ask them to email me at email@example.com and we can see how we can work together.
I have also sent a survey to the IMA University Representatives. These are staff in universities who deal with the graduate recruitment exercise, receive copies of Mathematics Today for student and staff common rooms and administer IMA Prizes. I am collecting views on the graduate activities so we can try to have our best shot at recruitment at the end of the academic year. If you have any such views please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following report is my report in Mathematics Today August.
The thought may or may not be welcome during the summer break, but the new intake of undergraduates will arrive shortly and my thoughts turn to engaging them with the IMA. A number of universities send out information to incoming students after A-Level results but before they arrive at university. I have received offers from some of the universities I have visited to include a letter from me in that mailing.
This letter will encourage students to participate in mathematical activities outside of their studies through that university (departmental events and undergraduate societies) and more widely through the IMA (Branches, Younger Mathematicians Conference and the overarching “Mathematics” conference). Of course, this will also promote student membership and resources such as the MathsCareers website.
Student members get access to the benefits of IMA membership at the much reduced rate of £10. I believe it could be useful to a university to have an undergraduate body with a good number of student members. Such a university will have a proportion of the undergraduate population receiving Mathematics Today and the eBulletin, and invitations to Branch events and IMA conferences. Such students are also demonstrating an inclination towards keeping in touch with the mathematics community and to their professional development as mathematicians beyond their studies. Such an arrangement would hopefully encourage a strong mathematical culture amongst the undergraduate body (more of which in the Student Section) and be beneficial for graduates.
If you are willing to distribute this letter to your students please get in touch (email@example.com) and I will arrange to send you some copies.
Activities May-June 2008
In May I went to the University of Manchester for the Manchester Research Students Conference, a conference for research students with the interesting idea that talks are used to learn about an area of mathematics outside your own research. I also visited Cardiff for the Eighth Younger Mathematicians Conference; a popular event which I believe was enjoyed by all.
In June I attended the launch of the new West of England Branch at Kingswood School in Bath. This was a talk by Chris Budd on the theme of his article in the popular Industrial Mathematics special issue of Mathematics Today (February 2008) and was well attended. I spend some time at the University of Greenwich and I have just received a t-shirt from the MathSoc there. A set were printed with a grant from the IMA which will give the MathSoc increased awareness and will be sold to fund a print run of the revived MathSoc newsletter, ‘Prime Times’ and a further print run of t-shirts.
I visited the University of Oxford for the post-exams Maths Options Fair. This event was well attended and I handed students a sheet of information on the IMA and a copy of the article “Careers for Mathematicians” by Sue Briault from the student section of Mathematics Today June1. I attended a Maths, Stats and OR Network workshop on Graduate and Employability Skills, hosted by Dr. Stephen Hibberd at the Centre for Integrative Learning, University of Nottingham. This was an interesting and lively day and I met many enthusiastic workers in this area.
June also brought the Presidential Address of Prof. David Abrahams at the Royal Society, and I would encourage you to look out for this as he tours around the Branches. I rounded off June at the European Consortium for Mathematics in Industry – ECMI 2008 Conference, where I attended the opening day and welcome reception.
This period has also been a busy one for IMA meetings, and as well as reporting to Council and Executive Board I have attended meetings of several other committees. It is useful to get an overview of what the IMA does and to meet some of those who give so generously of their time to further the work of the Institute. I also had my six month steering and personnel reviews and I am happy to report these went well.
IMA on Facebook
A reminder that the IMA group on Facebook and the IMA Facebook App are linked to from the IMA Student page (not just for students!) at www.ima.org.uk/student or search for “Institute of Mathematics and its Applications” on Facebook.
Student Section of Mathematics Today
In the Student Section this time is a piece by Shahzia Hussain of the Galois Group at the University of Manchester. Shahzia is an undergraduate with an impressive enthusiasm and energy for promoting mathematics. The Galois Group, her creation, is an impressive undertaking, especially on a voluntary basis alongside a mathematics degree and Shahzia is to be congratulated.
1. BRIAULT, S., 2008. Careers for Mathematicians. Mathematics Today, 44(3), pp. 117-118.
The following report is my report in Mathematics Today April.
I am newly employed by the IMA as University Liaison Officer to further the aims of the University Liaison initiative. The aims of this are to increase membership (particularly amongst undergraduates, postgraduates and recent graduates), to raise awareness of the IMA and its work among university students and recent graduates and to increase engagement of students with mathematics through the IMA.
Mathematics graduates will benefit from membership of the IMA, and mathematics itself will benefit from the strong professional body increased membership will allow.
I am interested to hear from members who have views on this project and am particularly keen to hear from those who feel they have something to contribute to this work by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers may be aware from the previous Mathematics Today that this work is supported by a bequest from Professor Clement Workman Jones, for which the IMA is very grateful.
As part of this work I am aiming to raise awareness of existence of the IMA (an awareness which among undergraduate students tends to be quite wanting) through recreational mathematics and careers events operated by university mathematical societies. These are usually student-run groups in universities with social and subject based components. [If you are in contact with such a group and they would like to be involved please contact me on email@example.com].
I am looking to produce a list of speakers who are willing, in principle, to speak to students in universities on recreational mathematics or mathematics careers topics. I would like to have a list of speakers, the topic(s) on which they are willing to speak and the areas of the country within which they are willing to travel to do so. Individual mathematical societies will then contact speakers directly to arrange specific events.
Before you dismiss yourself out of hand I would encourage you to think again! It is my experience that there are many mathematicians doing interesting work who are able to talk in an engaging way, but who say simply, “my work wouldn’t be of interest.” I would encourage you to imagine yourself as an undergraduate student studying mathematics but with little idea where it could take you and wonder how such a student might react to the story of some problem you have solved using mathematics or an overview of an area of advanced work barely touched on in their studies. If you speak in schools I would encourage you to consider that an undergraduate at 19 is not that different from a school student at 18 and topics which interest the latter would likely interest the former. And finally I would certainly encourage postgraduate students to hone their presentation skills by practising a talk about their research topic on local undergraduates (under an IMA banner, of course!).
I think as a speaker you will get a lot out of offering to speak at such events and you will be helping raise awareness of the IMA amongst university students, which will benefit the IMA greatly. If you are willing to be on this list of willing-in-principle speakers or have further questions, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another aspect of raising awareness is the sticker you have hopefully received with your copy of Mathematics Today. I strongly encourage all members to display their sticker somewhere potential members will see it and that way you will be giving the IMA a presence at your organisation and helping this work greatly.
Activities Jan-Feb 2008
In January I visited HQ at Catherine Richards House in Southend-on-sea and met the Secretariat. I have attended various IMA meetings including Executive Board, the annual Branch representatives meeting and I have met with the University Liaison steering group.
I have visited the Universities of Manchester and Greenwich and had productive meetings with staff and students at both. I have met representatives of all the Branches except the Scottish Branch so far, at the Branch Representatives Meeting in London and at Branch events.
Representatives of University Mathematical Societies (RUMS)
University mathematical societies interested in engaging with this work are invited to nominate a member to join a group Representatives of University Mathematical Societies (RUMS), presently an email group, intended to improve communication between societies and with the University Liaison project. Contact me for more information on email@example.com.
Student page on IMA website
Some content has been collected that is hopefully of relevance to students on a new Student page on the IMA website. This is intended to be a main point of communication by this project and provides links to relevant areas of the IMA site and other resources from this project.
This provides links to the IMA Facebook group, a page on YouTube where student- and member-contributed videos will be placed and my blog.
Visit this at: www.ima.org.uk/student
Student section of Mathematics Today
I hope you will be pleased to see that what follows this report is a new feature for Mathematics Today, the Student Section. For this, Noel-Ann Bradshaw has written an entertaining piece on the activities of the mathematical society, MathSoc at the University of Greenwich. I hope this will be of interest.