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Mathematics Today June 2010: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Where do I go from here?

As we come to the end of the academic year I find myself reflecting on my travels over the year, particularly as these relate to my plans for next year. There follows a list of universities I have visited this year, either to give a lecture or stand at a maths careers fair. My best information suggests this represents two thirds of UK universities with a mathematics degree programme. If you are a staff member or student at a university that is not mentioned on this list, please consider contacting me to see if we can work together.

I keep meeting staff at universities who are surprised that I am able to take the time to come and speak to their students. To be clear: my intention is that I offer to speak at any university with mathematics students in the country. My time is allocated for these lectures on a first come first served basis, with an attempt to arrange visits to several nearby universities in one trip for the sake of efficiency. It may be that I am in contact with someone at your university and we haven’t been able to find a mutually convenient time for a visit, or perhaps I simply don’t know anyone at your university. Some visits are arranged through the mathematics department, while others are directly with a student group or through the careers service. If a visit has been arranged, this may have been arranged by a student who is no longer around so it is still worth contacting me. Even if a visit is not possible to every university I would like to have some level of IMA involvement in every mathematics department in the country. As well as lectures we have leaflets we can distribute and a range of opportunities, including a grants programme, for student groups.

In the 2009/10 academic year I have given 49 IMA lectures and operated 5 IMA stalls at careers fairs, and in doing so I have spoken to over 1900 students and 120 staff at 46 universities this year. 34 of the lectures were my ‘Careers for mathematicians’; the remaining 15 were on mathematical topics. I currently offer lectures on ‘Puzzles’, ‘Cryptography’, ‘Chance & coincidence’ and ‘Spin in ball games’. We call these ‘Clement W. Jones Lectures’ in honour of Professor Clement W. Jones CMath FIMA, whose bequest of £20,000 helped fund the University Liaison initiative.

This academic year I have visited the following universities: Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Bath, Bolton, Brighton, Bristol, Brunel, Cardiff, Derby, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Greenwich, Heriot-Watt, Imperial College, Keele, Kent, Kingston, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, London Met, LSE, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle, Northumbria, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, St. Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde, Surrey, Swansea, UEA, UWE and York. A further six universities which I did not visit this year were represented by undergraduates at the Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today conference at Greenwich: Birkbeck, Cambridge, QMUL, Royal Holloway, UCL and Warwick.

If you are interested in arranging a lecture, particularly if your university is not on this list, please email me on peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk or say hello on Twitter @peterrowlett.

Activities March-April 2010

March was an active period of visits to universities. I visited the West of England and gave my careers talk at Bristol, UWE and Bath, where on the advice of the Head of School I took an enjoyable walk down the hill back to the town. I gave the same talk at Brunel. Some readers may remember my praise of the maths careers fair at York in the February issue of Mathematics Today and I was happy to give the opening talk at the fair this year and gave my careers talk at Leeds in the same trip. At the end of term I travelled to Aberystwyth and gave my Cryptography talk.

April was mostly taken up with the Easter vacation, with some universities returning for two or three weeks of teaching at the end of April and beginning of May. I gave my lecture on Cryptography at Derby. At Surrey I found a large audience, mostly of first year students taking an interest in their future at an unusually early point in their university career. This was particularly pleasing as most of them had finished an exam just an hour before my talk!

Mathematics Today April 2010: University Liaison Officer’s Report

[N.B. Followers of the podcast will know that there was a delay in releasing new episodes, so the podcast has not, at time of writing, reached 60 episodes.]

Podcast at sixty

By the time you read this, the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast will have released sixty episodes. I began producing the podcast in October 2008. I realised I was not going to reach every student at a talk or careers fair and so opportunities were needed to provide content electronically to a wider audience. On top of this, I realised that moving around the country as I do, I had a good opportunity to speak to a wide range of mathematicians about their work.

Most mathematics students don’t know what they want to do when they graduate. This is fine – it may be why they chose mathematics in the first place – but by the end of their degree they really need to have thought through their options. In fact, hopefully they will have done so by the time they enter the final year. I have spoken to a couple of careers advisors who have told me the first graduate recruitment deadline is several days before term starts in September, so students who return in their third year have already missed the first opportunity open to them. Presumably employers with deadlines this early want to attract applications only from students who are well-organised.

I want to encourage students to use their careers service. This is a resource that is valuable to them, but which, in my experience, they often don’t use. The opportunities offered by the careers service include, but are not limited to, finding out: who is hiring; what they are looking for; how to write a good CV; and, how to behave in an interview. But in order for the careers service to help the students make the difficult decision about what to do for their career, it is helpful if the students have explored the possible options. I think a short, ten minute audio podcast format provides a good method for this exploration. In my careers talk I ask students to listen to the podcast, and to read the Maths Careers website and the Plus Careers Library, to get an idea of the range of different occupations taken by mathematicians.

Regular podcast episodes involve mathematicians talking about their work, their career or an area of mathematics they have worked in. We also have features on maths history and maths news.

Podcast recordings are not well planned. Recordings are made opportunistically on days where I have gaps in my schedule and meet willing and interesting people. So while I can’t tell you there is a deliberate, well planned balance of topics and speakers, I think that now the podcast has reached 60 episodes it covers a good range of topics that should provide undergraduates with a wide variety of possible inspiration.

Episodes are quite varied, featuring topics such as maths biology, coding, cryptography, engineering, fluid dynamics, wave dispersion, transport modelling, network optimisation, Bayesian statistics, stochastic calculus, architecture, art, education, maths communication, finance, category theory, astrophysics, crowd modelling and even invisibility cloaks!

I encourage you to promote this resource to your students. Students can subscribe to the podcast and download episodes via www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk

Activities Jan-Feb 2010

January is less active, while universities hold exams and end of semester coursework deadlines, and February is an active period of visits to give talks at universities. I have given my careers talk at Nottingham, Imperial, Oxford, Cardiff, Swansea, London Met and Keele. I have given a talk on ‘Chance and coincidence’ at Leicester. These 8 talks attracted 280 students.

In February the University of Greenwich ran an undergraduate conference “Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today“. I attended this with Sharon Evans AMIMA, who helped me by talking to the students about working as a mathematician. A conference report is available in this issue of Mathematics Today so I will say no more expect that it was a fantastic and worthwhile achievement.

Mathematics Today February 2010: University Liaison Officer’s Report

10 ‘rules’ for a successful Careers Fair for mathematicians

So you’re organising a careers fair for mathematics students? Okay, it’s a tall order you’ve set yourself but it can be done! I have attended careers fairs that have worked for mathematics students and those which have not worked as well. I would like to share with you some thoughts about how fairs work, when they work, for mathematics students.

Mathematicians can be difficult to advise. Many, on telling people they are studying mathematics at university, get the reaction “So which do you want to do, accountancy or school teaching?” These options are fine for some but are not for everyone, while mathematics is a subject with an overwhelmingly broad range of options due to the wide ranging employability skills of its graduates. Some students, hearing this stereotype, feel detached and are turned off from seeking formal careers advice. I have had students approach me at careers fairs and say they think they have taken the wrong degree course, since they don’t want to go into teaching or finance! This is a problem as once they have decided what they want to do, the careers service can be very useful indeed: who is hiring, what they are looking for, how to write a good CV and so on. Expert careers staff can usually offer feedback on draft CVs and give mock job interviews for practice. Skills training sessions are usually available. Generally, the careers service can provide a really vital function but one that some students do not seek out. The students are going to get much more out of careers advice once they have an idea what they want to do. To do this, they must be encouraged to explore their possible options and this is where your fair will come in.

The formula for a careers fair usually contains some of the following features: stalls with employers, information on further study, where to get further careers advice and of course a stall from the IMA (my stall recently at Exeter is pictured); talks on skills topics; talks from practicing mathematicians, perhaps recent graduates; talks from employers

Rule 1: Advertise with a united front

As your students may be unexcited at the prospect of a careers fair, it is helpful to present the message that the fair is happening and worth attending from as many directions as possible. A very successful fair I attended at York was advertised jointly by the mathematics department, careers service and undergraduate maths society. Particularly, if lecturers are unenthusiastic about the fair the students will pick up on this and a negative attitude will spread. Conversely, if lecturers are encouraging, the students are likely to react well. Posters in the department are one thing, having lecturers ‘talk up’ the fair in their lectures is another level altogether.

Rule 2: Make it relevant

It is important to make sure the event is relevant to the students. I have attended fairs for multiple subjects and the mathematicians tend not to turn up to these in substantial numbers. At a maths-specific careers fair, the students perceive the advice, employers, etc. are aimed at them specifically and this can be a more attractive draw.

Rule 3: Location, location, location

Silly though it sounds, distance can be a real factor. If students have to leave the areas they normally visit you have already lost a proportion of them. Run the fair in a building they visit often, perhaps where they take lectures. Keep them in their comfort zone, in their home territory. A Careers Fair is a scary prospect, full of scary employers. If you make them comfortable and make it easy for them physically to attend they are much more likely to drop by.

Rule 4: Timing is everything

Plan the fair well in advance, schedule it when the students (at least final years) aren’t busy and if possible put it on the students’ timetable. Don’t let on that attendance is anything but compulsory. I’ve been to fairs where a whole or half day has been scheduled with no lectures to make sure everyone is able to attend, though this is a difficult decision to take.

Rule 5: A small window of opportunity is good

If the fair includes employer stalls, have this within a fairly tight period. I have been to fairs that last all day and the number of students at any one time is low. I have also been to fairs with a tight period – the Calculating Careers fair at Manchester has hundreds of students focussed in just a couple of hours – and this leads to greater numbers in the room at any time. The students are more likely to know others when they arrive – safety in numbers! – and so more likely to stay for longer. Having a busy room and limited time produces an energised environment that benefits everyone. The stallholders will appreciate a more focused time period as well.

Rule 6: Avoid sign-up sheets

It is very tempting to try to get students to put their names on a sign-up sheet for individual sessions or even the whole day. This can help in planning room sizes and I think there is a perception this makes students feel they have made a commitment to attend. In my experience students are not good at making such a formal commitment and, having not signed up, feel they can’t just drop in. Those who do sign up are far from certain to attend.

Rule 7: Get the students involved

A way to create a buzz about your fair among the students is to involve them in the planning. Ask the students what employers they want at the fair. The employers are more likely to attend if you can tell them “our students have asked that I invite you” and the students are more likely to attend if they know the employers they want to talk to are there. If there is a student rep. or a student maths society, get them involved as well. If the students feel some involvement with your fair and start talking about it to other students this is the best advertising of all – peer endorsement. Perhaps the students can plan a social event – cheese and wine, for example – to end the fair, which can help encourage attendance and allow the employers to speak to students in a less formal setting.

Rule 8: Get a good mix of employers

If you are having employers, getting a good mix is crucial. Not everyone you invite will come but try to get a mix of job sectors. Go to the IMA website and look at the Careers Advice leaflet, available via www.ima.org.uk/student. On page 3 of this is a list of job sectors: try to get employers from each sector. In the Professional Affairs section of the website is a list of employers who are Friends of Mathematics (mostly because they employ mathematicians). If you lean heavily towards one kind of employer, you will put some students off. With a good mix of employers there is something for everyone. In rule 7 I suggested asking the students which employers they would like to talk to – this can be a significant factor in encouraging attendance.

Rule 9: Start with a rousing talk

I had an interesting experience earlier this year at a very successful fair at York. I opened the fair with my careers talk. This was an exhilarating experience, the students responded really well and left my talk straight into the hall of employers, enthused and ready to learn more about their career options. I talked about careers options, taking charge and choosing your own path, employability skills, evidencing those skills in a job application and having a professional career development following graduation. Feedback given to me from employers at the fair in York was that the students were enthusiastic (in precisely the way they normally aren’t at such fairs), pragmatic and realistic about what they need to do to get a job. I think this was a good experience all round and it was well worth firing the students up with an opening talk.

Rule 10: Provide practical advice

Students like to meet early career mathematicians. They like to see people who were in their position just a few years ago and find out how they got to where they are now. Particularly if they are graduates from the same university. To be seen as a role model at their former university is good for the professional development of the speaker. The IMA can help here by trying to connect universities to IMA members who are recent graduates. Email me if you are such a recent graduate or if you are organising a fair and would like to find some (peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk).

Students also value practical advice which is applicable to job hunting. The careers service can likely help here in running career development workshops. A fair I attended at Portsmouth had a full programme of careers skills sessions and employer talks and the students responded very well. With an awareness that not all students are interested in all the options open to them, this used parallel sessions to make sure there was always something for everyone. If there are mathematics staff who have previously worked in industry they might be able to give good practical advice as well. I saw an excellent CV writing session at Greenwich by a lecturer whose former job included assessing CVs to hire graduate mathematicians.

If you are considering running a maths-specific careers fair and would like to talk to me about this I can be reached on peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk.

Activities Nov-Dec 2009

This period I have been busy with visits to give talks at universities. I have given my careers talk at Kent, Durham, Sheffield, Dundee, Stirling, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Brighton, Portsmouth, Exeter and Plymouth. I have given a talk on cryptography at Sheffield, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Heriot-Watt and Southampton, a talk on puzzles at LSE, Newcastle, Northumbria and Edinburgh and my spin in ball games/Wii talk at York. In the 10 week period (Oct-Dec) of teaching in the autumn term I have given 32 talks and operated 3 careers stalls and so have spoken to over 1100 students and 80 staff at 29 universities.

Also in November 12,600 IMA leaflets were distributed to 71 university maths departments, careers services and student societies. If you work in a university mathematics department I hope you will have seen these around the department. I spoke on my activities to the 11th Younger Mathematicians Conference in Birmingham. In December I had my six monthly meeting with my steering group and annual appraisal. I am pleased to report both went well.

Mathematics Today December 2009: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Improving graduate skills through an undergraduate conference

When I give my careers talk to undergraduates I talk about the skills their degree offers and those it may not. I highlight the skills employers think maths graduates do and don’t have, based on commonly held stereotypes. On the plus side a mathematician is logical, systematic, rigorous, clear thinking and analytical [1]. These are logical, analytical problem solvers, highly valued in many areas of employment [2]. On the other hand, employers think mathematicians are lacking in certain areas, including communication and social skills [1].

I believe the soon-to-be-graduate mathematician needs to be aware of the preconceptions held by the people who are interviewing them for positions. I tell students the person hiring them thinks they are a logical problem solver and worth hiring, but they believe that if they do so their new employee will need to be brought up to speed on communication and social skills. If the mathematician can demonstrate they conform only to the positive side of the stereotype they have the opportunity to surprise the interviewer and this may give them an edge. Of course it is not sufficient to simply make unsubstantiated claims: “I am an excellent communicator”. The student must be armed with experiences to provide evidence of their range of employability skills: “I have done x and this shows me to be an excellent communicator”.

It is against this background that I was approached by Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich with a plan to provide graduates with appropriate experiences and evidence of their skills: an undergraduate conference. Students are invited to propose short talks on a topic of their choosing, which will be approved through an abstract submission process. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear we were very happy to support this initiative through the University Liaison Project.

The conference, Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today: an Undergraduate Mathematics Conference in London, supported by the IMA, is to take place on 6 February 2010 at the University of Greenwich. Abstracts are invited –by 1 p. m. on 18 December 2009 please to tmt@gre.ac.uk – and the students will be notified whether they have been successful in the new year. Students looking towards further study and research will benefit from having experienced (endured?!) the process of submitting an abstract to a conference. All student presenters will benefit from a skills enhancing experience and will return the better for having attended with clear evidence to demonstrate to potential employers what employable people they are. All attendees will find they have an enjoyable, enriching experience hearing about some interesting mathematics and mixing with their peers. As an added bonus Noel-Ann has managed quite a coup in getting IMA-LMS Christopher Zeeman Medal winner Professor Ian Stewart to deliver the keynote address.

The conference title – Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today – reflects the idea that the conference is designed to attract delegates who will become the leading mathematicians of tomorrow. In part I think this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy; having benefited from this conference the delegates are armed to go into the world and become the next generation of leading mathematicians. I highly recommend encouraging your students to attend. There is more information on attendance and a call for papers elsewhere in this issue of Mathematics Today or you can visit the conference website at http://mathsoc.cms.gre.ac.uk/tmt/.

References

  1. CHALLIS, N., GRETTON, H., HOUSTON, K., and NEILL, N., 2002. Developing transferable skills: preparation for employment. In: P. KAHN, ed. and J. KYLE, ed., Effective Teaching and Learning in Mathematics & its Applications. London: Kogan Page, 2002, pp. 79-91.
  2. QUALITY ASSURANCE AGENCY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, THE, 2002. Subject benchmark statements: Academic standards – Mathematics, statistics and operational research. Gloucester: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Activities Sept-Oct 2009

In September I returned from my summer break and started planning for the new academic year. I provided comments to Julie Hepburn, the IMA’s liaison in the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, on a rewrite she has conducted of the widely distributed careers advice leaflet “Your Options with Mathematics”. This leaflet had many limitations and Julie has made a substantial improvement despite severe restrictions on the style, length of individual sections and types of jobs that can be recommended. With the wide distribution and knock-on impact of that leaflet among careers advisors I think Julie has managed a substantial leap forward in improving the quality of careers advice offered to mathematicians. Also in preparation for the new year I arranged a print run of leaflets highlighting the benefits of membership to students that will be distributed to all departments and careers services where mathematics degrees are offered. I would be grateful if you could assist in distributing these and please let me know (peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk) if you need more!

In October I resumed my visits to universities. I gave my careers talk at the University of East Anglia, twice during induction week at Nottingham Trent, at Liverpool John Moores, Liverpool, Kingston, Lancaster, Manchester Metropolitan and Bolton. I also gave a talk on puzzles at Liverpool and one on cryptography at Lancaster. I took an IMA stall to a careers fair at Kingston and to the ever-successful “Calculating Careers” Fair at Manchester. I was shadowed to Kingston by new IMA Assistant Director, John Meeson, who wanted the opportunity to learn about students and their motivations re. membership, Altogether these events have put me in contact with over 500 students in October.

Mathematics Today October: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Keeping in touch

The nature of university life means that the undergraduate students I engage with are only likely to be around for a limited period of time. This engagement is usually though either a student run society or through a student member of a staff/student liaison committee. The end of one academic year and transition to the next is a potentially dangerous time for this engagement with students leaving their role within the department or society or even graduating and leaving the university altogether. I have spent some time at the end of the academic year trying to maintain contact with the students and societies I have had a relationship with, making contact with the next years students where possible. By the end of the last academic year I was in contact with student representatives or societies at 20 universities. If I lose contact with these I will start academic year 2009/10 back at square one in terms of student engagement and this is a large risk in the University Liaison role. On the staff side I hope the situation will be more stable. There are changes in staffing and staff roles though these are found in a much smaller number of cases.

At the time of writing I have made contact with next years students at 14 of the 20 universities I was in contact with last year and I consider this to be a good rate of return. My best information suggests there are 72 universities in the UK offering mathematics. I enter the new academic year with a prior relationship with a staff or student contact (or both) at 50 of them.

My thoughts now turn to planning my activities for the 2009/10 academic year. As in the previous academic year I will travel around the country offering my talk on careers for mathematicians and recreational mathematics lectures on various topics. I will also continue to operate on behalf of the IMA at careers fairs and postgraduate research conferences. In the last academic year I have visited 33 university mathematics departments and given talks and/or operated stalls at 23 of these. I am keen to increase these numbers next academic year! If you want to approach me with such an opportunity I would be very pleased to hear from you. I am also very interested to make contact with the 22 ‘missing’ universities so if you think I haven’t been in contact with your university please get in touch. You can email me on peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk. Another area where your university and the IMA can work together is University Liaison Grants to support student mathematical activities and there is more on this in the Student Section.

Activities July-August 2009

This period is the summer downtime and I used the opportunity to take much of my annual leave. Consequently my activities were lighter than usual in this period.

I attended the 3rd European Postgraduate Fluid Dynamics Conference at the University of Nottingham. This conference organised by and for postgraduate students was supported by an IMA Small Grant and I attended with a stall during the poster session and closing lunch. I believe the organisers are preparing a separate report on this conference. The materials on my stall included the Institute’s new Initial Professional Development (IPD) leaflet which explains to younger members what to do to start on the path to the Chartered designations. I travelled to Brighton for a visit to the School of Computing, Mathematical and Information Sciences at the University of Brighton and to attend a ceremony at that university in which IMA Prizes were awarded to two graduands. Finally I attended an Open University summer school on mathematical modelling and gave a version of my careers talk.

Mathematics Today August: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Enthusiastic individuals and persistent institutions

Recently, on Twitter no less, I came across the following quote:

“Without individuals, nothing happens; without institutions, nothing survives.”
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

This quote attracts me for two reasons. Firstly, I recently met a young mathematician interested in meeting others with similar academic interests. When I suggested he might want to join a learned society he told me “oh no, the learned societies are just for old people and I don’t want to be part of anything like that.” I consider this a tragic statement. Without being so specific as to identify him, I will say this person was a dynamic, enthusiastic person and precisely the sort of “individual” able to make things “happen”. It is a real shame he didn’t feel the natural step was to align himself with an established “institution” to ensure the fruits of his enthusiasm “survive”.

I do not know how widespread this viewpoint is but I have had others tell me that membership bodies (in general) are going out of fashion. This is sad: in and of itself, that an organisation which does good might not survive; that the enthusiasm of individuals may not be carried forward and amplified by affiliation with an organisation; and, in the case of the IMA, that membership of a professional organisation might decline at a time when individual professional development is increasingly well valued by employers.

We have to do all we can to rout this viewpoint among young mathematicians. If those with enthusiasm and similar outlook and aims to the IMA don’t feel it is worth joining then there is trouble ahead. This is broadly what I am trying to do as ULO, to improve the chances a student has heard of the IMA and some of the benefits of joining before they graduate. I believe that if they understand the benefits it is a natural choice for many to join. I can’t personally see every graduate and every young mathematician in employment so this is where I ask you as a member to evangelise on behalf of the IMA. This is a valuable organisation for mathematicians to be a part of and it benefits from a strong membership. The IMA Younger Members activities are the envy of representatives I have spoken to from professional bodies in other subjects and attendance at the Younger Mathematicians Conference (next in Birmingham in November) is an excellent first step into IMA activities for a graduate just starting their career in mathematics. There is presumably a barrier in communicating this information to the enthusiastic individual I met and others like him. You might find inspiration for your evangelising in the latter half of my careers talk slides, available through www.ima.org.uk/student

The second reason this quote spoke to me is I have met some extraordinary young mathematicians and mathematics students in my time as ULO. The students with the drive to set up or revive a university student mathematics society at the same time as completing their studies are always pleasing to meet. I have rarely seen an organised collective effort to set up such societies; rather such societies owe a debt to the work of enthusiastic individuals. There is a piece in the Student Section from one such person, Mike Ross of Heriot-Watt University, with his tips for others thinking of setting up a university mathematical society.

Of course, the nature of student life means the enthusiast who set up the society will move on very quickly. Usually first year students are not sufficiently well established to set up or run a society until later in the year and final year students have other issues about which to worry (there are exceptions). I know several individuals who have been the driving force behind student societies who are moving on this year. The problem becomes: how do they ensure the continuity of their work?

The successful model is usually to find a group of younger students who are willing to form an organising committee and take this on – forming a persistent “institution”. Sometimes this works and sometimes the enthusiasm decreases in the following year. A model I have seen work well is to involve a postgraduate student or member of staff in the organisation of the society. As they are generally better established and around for longer they can usually provide continuity and drive that a one year student committee might otherwise lack. Societies who manage this transition well can enjoy years of activities that are to the benefit of the students and the whole department. Such societies often include an element of peer support and community spirit which can help a department with issues such as retention. Departments that act to ensure a healthy society able to capture and build on the enthusiasm of individuals are to be commended.

Of course, funding can be an issue and the IMA can help here. University Liaison Grants are available to university societies to support their activities. If you are interested in supporting your students to set up or revive a mathematical society this is an ideal use of a University Liaison Grant. If there is already a society then a grant may help extend their range of activities. An application form which includes some guidance on the types of activity that this money may be applied for is available through the website at www.ima.org.uk/student

Activities May-June 2009

The post-Easter period is an interesting one. A majority of universities have finished or are finishing teaching and the appetite for a careers talk was reduced. However, the student societies are looking for fun activities to take a break from revision for exams. I gave my talk on spin in ball games followed by playing on the Wii at the Universities of Newcastle and Sheffield.

An exception to the semester-based system is the University of York, who were at the start of the third term. I went to York and gave an evening lecture on puzzles to the Mathsoc and opened the Maths Careers Fair with my careers talk and ran a stall (pictured are students “having a go” after my talk). The attendance for the careers talk was so great people were sitting in the aisle and others had to be turned away so I gave a second sitting of my talk for those students. I received positive feedback on my talk from staff and students. Other stallholders at the Careers Fair told me the students came out of my talk with enthusiasm and with a real pragmatism about what they needed to do, qualities the stallholders felt they didn’t usually see in undergraduates. The maths-specific careers fair format is a valuable one that I think works much more effectively for mathematics students than an untargeted fair.

Puzzles at York

I attended and spoke on my activities at the 10th IMA Younger Mathematicians Conference in Oxford which was, as usual, a useful and enjoyable occasion. I spoke at an event on new technologies for maths promotion to the Maths Promoters Network. I gave an introduction to the day and spoke about use of social networking (mostly Twitter) and gave a podcast live recording demo with Matt Parker (which can be heard in episode 31 via www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk). I was joined to speak on social networking (Facebook) by Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and on podcasting by Marianne Freiberger of Plus. Also speaking were Zia Rahman of more maths grads and Richard Browne of MEI who both spoke on online videos and DVDs.

I made a visit to Kingston University to meet careers staff and postgraduates and attended the NUMS EGM at University College London. I ran a stall at a postgraduate conference at the University of Surrey. The University is in Guildford where Alan Turing lived as a child and he is honoured by a bronze statue outside the Austin Pearce Building where the conference took place (pictured).

Alan Turing StatueI had my 6-monthly meeting with my steering group in May and am happy to report this went well.

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