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Careers for Mathematicians

In my report to Mathematics Today June, I mentioned that,

In the Student Section this issue is a piece adapted from a careers advice leaflet produced for mathematics students by Bath Careers Advisory Service by Sue Briault. I hope you will find this, as I did, packed with useful advice.

Careers for Mathematicians” is now available as a PDF through the IMA website Student page. It contains some useful careers advice targeted to mathematics students and graduates.

IMA Membership: An option for Oxford Mathematicians?

Last week I attended the Maths Options Fair at the University of Oxford. This is for third year undergraduates to consider their options and I was invited to this by Audrey Curnock of the Mathematical Institute so I could meet those students and make them aware of the IMA.

The event was well attended. I met a lot of students and gave them a leaflet about IMA membership and a copy of the article “Careers for Mathematicians” by Sue Briault from the June 2008 issue of Mathematics Today. This was generally well received as I believe it offers well balanced, realistic careers advise for mathematics graduates.

IMA stall at Oxford Maths Options Fair

Mathematics Today June: University Liaison Officer’s Report

The following report is my report in Mathematics Today June.

“When I graduated from my mathematics degree, between results and graduation I received a letter from a local academic suggesting I join the IMA. I thought: ‘Who are these people and why would I want to give them my money?’ and the letter went straight in the bin.”

I have made this statement a lot since I applied for the job as University Liaison Officer last October and have found general agreement from those who also received such letters and even from those who distribute them. This leads me to suspect you may be nodding as you read this!

I think the process of a known local academic giving a letter to students suggesting they join is a good idea with a desirable personal touch. In my opinion, the problem is that the students aren’t aware of the IMA, its work and the benefits of joining before this point and so the letter doesn’t strike a chord.

I later discovered who the Institute are, learned a little about what it does and joined up. I think the IMA has a lot to offer graduates as they embark on their careers but yet only a small percentage of maths graduates are joining (approx. 5%). The illuminating statistic here, in my opinion, is that there are around 4500 members of the IMA and there are around 4500 mathematics graduates per year in the UK. So the potential is huge!

I should explain a little for those who do not know about the graduate recruitment exercise. Sometime towards the start of the calendar year the IMA writes to its contacts in UK university mathematics departments and asks how many graduates they will have this year. They are then sent the appropriate number of graduate recruitment packs to distribute to those students. They should have been received and distributed therefore during the past 2-3 months.

I have spoken with people in universities who distribute these packs and appreciate their value to the students. Some people send the packs through the post to students while some hand them out in final year lectures. I have also visited universities where I can’t find anyone who is aware of receiving the packs or what happens to them.

So my call for assistance this time is: are you involved with the graduate recruitment exercise at your university? I am interested in how the packs are handled. Do you have any views on the effectiveness of this campaign or what could be done to improve it? If you have any information or views on this or any other issue please email me at

If you believe your university is not involved in this process then I would certainly be pleased to hear from you as it may mean we have an out of date contact in our list.

Activities March-April 2008

In March I visited the University of Reading, where the Mathematics Department has a compulsory skills module which includes a career management component operated by the Careers Advisory Service. This is an unusual arrangement and an interesting one. I also visited Bath and Bristol and found at those universities an appetite for engagement with the IMA and particularly for careers talks given by former students who are now IMA members.

In March/April I attended two half days of the 50th anniversary BAMC. It was really great to see such a vibrant applied mathematics community at work, although it must be said that most of the talks were outside my mathematical knowledge! I also attended a couple of interesting sessions at “Meet the Mathematicians”, a sixth form outreach event attached to BAMC.

In April I spent a beautiful sunny day visiting the Mathematical Institute at Oxford. I met with several interesting members of staff and had a productive chat with the incoming organising committee for the Invariants, the student mathematical society. The Invariants enjoy slightly off-syllabus mathematics talks and are thinking about reviving a student magazine. I also spent a productive afternoon in Portsmouth visiting the Department of Mathematics and the Purple Door careers service. To round off the month I attended the Manchester Mathsoc Ball and talked to final year students about the benefits of joining the IMA.

IMA Stickers

I have to apologise for the trouble with the stickers last time. For those who don’t know I wrote in Mathematics Today April that a sticker would be included saying “I’m a member of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications – Are you?” Unfortunately this was not included with Mathematics Today as expected but instead we sent it out the following week under a separate cover.

Still, I must report a huge positive reaction to the stickers. I would like to say thank you to all the people who have emailed me with their support for this idea to raise the visibility of the IMA. I have also had several requests from people wanting more than one sticker, which is very gratifying!

During my visit to Portsmouth in April I saw my first sticker “in the wild” (that is, a sticker I didn’t stick to something!) on the door of Ann Heal. I have since seen others and plenty of people have told me how they have displayed theirs. It is nice to see people taking a liking to this idea.

IMA on Facebook

The IMA group on Facebook and the IMA Facebook App are linked to from the IMA Student page (not just for students!) at or search for “Institute of Mathematics and its Applications” on Facebook.

If you are attending the Eight Younger Members Conference in May you can add this to your Events on Facebook.

Student Section of Mathematics Today

In the Student Section this issue is a piece adapted from a careers advice leaflet produced for mathematics students by Bath Careers Advisory Service by Sue Briault. I hope you will find this, as I did, packed with useful advice.

Mathematics Today April: University Liaison Officer’s Report

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

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].

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

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

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:

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.