Rhian Davies

Challenges and support

Now undertaking a PhD in Statistics and Operational Research with the STOR-i Centre for Doctoral Training, Rhian Davies transferred to Lancaster after spending a year at Chester University, attracted by the challenge that Lancaster’s course presented. “I originally started at Chester University, found the course not to be challenging enough and transferred to Lancaster straight into my second year,” she says. Upon arriving in Lancaster, Rhian was particularly impressed with the level of support on offer for students. “Whenever I had problems with the weekly homework assignments, I was able to chat with my personal course tutor,” she says.  “Also, the administrative staff are fantastic.”

As well as the support that she received, Rhian was also struck by the friendly, community atmosphere of the Department. “Lancaster’s Maths Department has a very supportive and friendly feel,” she says. “Over the course of my undergraduate degree, I got to know my tutors, lecturers and the admin staff well, which meant that it was much easier to ask for help.”

A flexible degree

Despite originally taking all of her third year modules in Pure Mathematics, the flexibility of Lancaster’s degree schemes allowed her to change these when she discovered her passion for statistics. “At the end of my second year, I chose my third year modules, all of which were in Pure Mathematics,” she says. “However, over the summer I did a STOR-i research internship on a statistics project, and found my love for statistics! Julia Tawn helped me to change my third year modules to study more statistics instead, and now I’ve ended up doing a statistics PhD.”

In addition, Rhian found the content of her course to be engaging and enjoyable. “My favourite topic during my studies was ‘Stochastic Processes’, where I learnt how to analyse Markov processes and how they can be used to model queues and populations,” she says.

Strong career foundations

Rhian believes that the content of her course at Lancaster, as well as the skills that she has gained during her degree, have prepared her well for her current PhD studies. “The opportunity to tackle interesting, challenging problems encouraged me to go on to further study,” she explains. “The opportunity to do a research internship in the summer of my second year also gave me the confidence to continue into postgraduate research.”

Rhian also feels that the skills that she has gained through the internships that she undertook during her undergraduate degree have helped to prepare her for her current studies. “During my second year, I took a summer internship on the STOR-i programme at Lancaster University,” she says. “I had the opportunity to carry out real research, and discover what it’s like to continue postgraduate research in statistics. After third year, through a member of staff, I secured an internship working as a data scientist at Unilever Research, where I did some time series analysis.”

Excellent facilities

Rhian was grateful for the facilities available to students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, as well as those available to all Lancaster students, making full use of them during her time here. “The University has a Learning Zone where I could study with friends in a group,” she says. “I prefer working in a chatty environment, so the Learning Zone offers a more comfortable learning environment than the library for me. We also have a ‘maths café’ - a weekly informal gathering where third year students help first year students with maths assignments.”

Advice for students

Having had a fantastic experience at Lancaster University, Rhian highly recommends the University to prospective students, and advises them to attend a Visit Day if they can. “The department offers a challenging course, and I made some great friends for life along the way,” she says. “If you’re thinking of studying mathematics here, try a Mathematics Visit Day. There are always plenty of maths staff and students to chat to!”