Meet our Students
Graduating students and alumni can give you a real flavour of life at Lancaster and how we can change your life and launch your career.
BSc Mathematics with Statistics (Study Abroad)
Emily Granger is glad to have chosen to study at Lancaster, feeling that the excellent reputation of the Maths and Statistics Department is well-earned. “Lancaster’s Mathematics and Statistics Department has a very good reputation and now I have studied here for three years I can see why,” she says. “I would recommend this University to anyone thinking of studying maths. However, wherever you may end up going, my advice is simply to make the most of your time and your maintenance loan!”
Although Emily has greatly benefitted from the academic aspects of her degree, it was the opportunity to spend a year abroad, as well as her involvement with student societies, that proved to be the highlights of her time at Lancaster. “In my first year I tried out many things such as kayaking, climbing, going out with RocSoc (Rock Society), all of which I really enjoyed, but throughout the years what I have been most involved with is Lancaster Amnesty International Society and Lancaster Oxfam Society,” she says. “I was quite shy before coming here, but by coming to Lancaster I have been given opportunities such as being part of an executive for a society, completing an internship at the University and even living in Canada for a year! I knew that Lancaster has great study abroad opportunities and I have a strong interest in travelling. All of these (amongst others I haven’t mentioned) have not only been a lot of fun to experience, but have filled me with confidence and I feel much more prepared for what comes next after university. The opportunities that Lancaster has given me have been the best thing about studying here.”
Emily feels that the skills and knowledge that she has gained at Lancaster will prepare her effectively for her career in the future, as she wishes to undertake a career related to statistics. “I would like to become a medical or environmental statistician, or if not, work for a non-profit organisation such as Amnesty International or Oxfam,” she says.
After studying A-Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology, Faye decided to study a BSc in Mathematics at Lancaster. She cites the community atmosphere on campus, as well as the outstanding reputation of the Department, as her main reasons for studying here. “The campus had a really friendly and inviting atmosphere with lots going on, and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has a great reputation,” she says.
Faye has been heavily involved in extra-curricular activities during her time here, undertaking an internship, work experience and voluntary work helping other students. “I completed a summer internship at the University in Statistics and Operational Research to gauge whether postgraduate study would be right for me,” she says. “I have also been a third year course representative collaborating between staff and students to address any problems that students may have; a computing laboratory demonstrator in my final year to assist first year maths undergraduates with one of their computing modules; a support worker for Clear Links, which involves note taking for dyslexic or disabled students at Lancaster University; and every weekend, I work part-time as a receptionist at a local ophthalmic practice.”
Advice and opportunities
Faye advises prospective students hoping to study Mathematics at Lancaster to take full advantage of the extensive range of support that Lancaster has on offer, as well as taking advantage of the wide range of internships and work experience opportunities available. “My advice would be: if you ever have a problem – whether maths-related or not – do not be afraid to ask the lecturers and tutors for help, because they are all very approachable and friendly,” she says. “Also, I would advise that students get involved in any internship opportunities available over summer because they really help give you an idea of what you want to do next and where your interests lie. The continual support and encouragement provided by the Departmental staff was the best thing about studying at Lancaster.”
Looking towards the future, Faye wishes to undertake further research within one of the prestigious doctoral training centres based at Lancaster. “I would like to complete a four-year PhD programme in Statistics and Operational Research here at Lancaster University; the first year resulting in the award of a Masters of Research, followed by a three year period of study leading to a PhD,” she says.
Having studied Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and Computing at A-Level, Glen was convinced to study at Lancaster because of our community atmosphere and outstanding mathematics degrees. “I chose Lancaster for a number of reasons,” he says. “Firstly, after visiting the campus on Open Days and Department Visit Days, I loved the welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The campus provides a comfortable and focused area in which to study and enjoy the social events. The course structure and content was highly appealing, and the use of end-of-term tests in first year was a great way to make sure you fully understood the material. In final year, the opportunity to choose modules from a wide selection meant that you could really focus on what area of maths you wanted to study.”
In addition, the excellent teaching and friendly, supportive staff proved to be the highlight of Glen’s time at university. “The best thing about studying at Lancaster is the high level of teaching,” he says. “All of the staff are extremely friendly, and most have an open door policy where you can go and ask them about any problems you are having.”
A wealth of opportunities
Glen has greatly enjoyed participating in the Archery Club since arriving at Lancaster, and his pursuit of the Lancaster Award has boosted his CV and enhanced his career prospects. “In my first year I joined the Archery Club and have been a member for all three years,” he says. “It has been highly enjoyable getting involved and learning a new sport that before coming to Lancaster I hadn’t done. There is a huge range of societies and clubs, so there really is something for everyone.
“I have also completed the Lancaster Award which is a programme designed to enhance your CV. It involves completing six (or more) activities to enhance your career prospects - for example, work experience and campus and community development. You then have to reflect on what skills you have learnt and also complete an application form and interview. I found completing the Award highly enjoyable, and it also really enhanced my CV.”
Advice and further study
When asked what his plans were after graduation, Glen replied that he is going to continue studying at Lancaster at postgraduate level, undertaking an MSc in Statistics. He has advice for prospective students wishing to study in the Department, encouraging them to take part in extracurricular activities and to take advantage of the extensive support offered by the University. “I would say to get involved with activities outside your course to enjoy your time here - it is amazing how quickly the three years passes,” he says. “Also, don’t be afraid to go ask for help from the staff if needed. I found it daunting at first, but soon I realised that they are friendly and often want to help.”
BSc Mathematics, PhD Statistics and Operational Research (STOR-i)
Helen’s interest in the subject was first kindled when she studied Mathematics and Statistics at undergraduate level at Lancaster. Her highly positive experience has led her to recommend the University to fellow applicants.
A friendly environment
Helen was immediately struck by the community atmosphere of the campus, the quality of the course and the friendly nature of our staff, leading her to be convinced that Lancaster was her ideal place to study. “I really liked the atmosphere when I came to visit the campus, and everyone was so friendly,” she says. “I liked the look of the course, and everyone I spoke to from the Department was really helpful.”
Helen was also impressed by Lancaster’s collegiate system upon her initial visit. We are one of only a handful of universities in the country to adopt a collegiate system, and each of our nine colleges has its own unique features, communities, and character. Helen felt that the collegiate system helped her to ease into university life, providing an effective bridge from her A Levels to degree level study. “I liked the collegiate system because it felt more personal than other universities, so not as big a step up from 6th Form,” she says.
The support that Lancaster University offers, both in terms of academic support and the general welfare of our students, also contributed to Helen’s positive experience studying here. “My tutors were always really helpful answering my questions in workshops, and the lecturers were always happy to help when I went to see them in their office hours,” she says. Helen also praised the support for student welfare that is available through the University colleges and student based services. “Each college has a support system, so if there are any welfare issues that are affecting your studies, they can help,” she says.” Although I never needed it, it was reassuring to know that the support was there.”
An engaging subject
After choosing medical statistics as a third year module, Helen chose to undertake a PhD in the subject. As well as giving her a passion for this area of statistics, it allowed her to develop skills that would prove invaluable when undertaking her PhD. “It showed me how we can use mathematics and statistics in practice to make real life decisions,” she says. “I use concepts I learnt in this module quite regularly.” These skills and concepts included the proficiency that Helen gained in statistical computer programs, which she has subsequently found highly useful during her PhD. “I used computer programs like R and MATLAB during my degree,” she says. “Although I found them hard to use at first, I now use R every day in my research with ease, so starting it early did help.”
A versatile degree
Although Helen isn’t yet certain where her career will take her, she is aware that her degree has given her a wide range of skills that are attractive to a variety of employers. “I haven’t chosen a profession yet, but studying at Lancaster has taught me lots of key skills that are useful in most professions: teamwork, time management and scientific writing,” she says.
Advice for applicants
When asked what advice she would give to potential applicants considering studying at Lancaster, Helen was quick to recommend the University. “Lancaster is a great place to study Mathematics and Statistics,” she says. “When deciding which university to study at, be sure to take a look around the campus, and look at the course itself. It’s 3 or 4 years of your life, so you need to be somewhere where you’ll be happy, and Lancaster is a great choice!”
Helen concludes: “I’ve had a great time studying the subject I love and have made friends for life -it has always felt like a home from home!”
BSc Mathematics, PhD Statistics and Operational Research (STOR-i)
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.
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.”
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!”
Teacher Adrian Hall has little patience for people whose response to philosophy is to question the existence of the table in front of them. For him the subject is much more important and relevant.
He loves to use philosophy with his pupils at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, as a means of thinking about the big questions – whether humans should build machines as intelligent as ourselves, the morals of rationing health care, whether animals have souls and whether states should be able to dictate whether a woman can have an abortion.
As assistant head at a school numbering 1400 pupils from 40 primary schools drawn from three counties – Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire – much of his teaching time is assigned to mathematics. However in formal philosophy courses, and informal discussions with pupils, he loves to challenge them to play with ideas, and not to be afraid of tackling important issues.
The challenge of sharing his passion for ideas continues to fire his professional life. After 20 years as a teacher he counts himself fortunate still to be in a job he loves: "I still get up feeling that I have a moral purpose and that I am doing something worthwhile – it is a job where you change people's lives."
Adrian holds Lancaster University responsible for inspiring his philosophical interests. The three-subject option in the first year was the greatest draw for him as an 18 year old, straight from a mediocre comprehensive school in the West Midlands. He was, he says "a typical mathematician" with a liking for finality, but the opportunity to study philosophy alongside mathematics and ICT, opened up his thinking in new ways.
Mathematics was enjoyable but it was the philosophy courses that really felt exciting and relevant. Of course he wrestled with the meaning of life and with courses on existentialism and Nietzsche, but he also tackled issues like artificial intelligence and the separation of mind, body and brain, that continue to be hot topics for discussion today. He dropped ICT after the first year, but continues to use it at school when teaching mathematics.
He felt instantly at home on the campus and spent most of his time socialising there outside lectures, with people he met on his course and in college. Having bars to hand made it easy to drop in and chat to people over a drink, without it turning into "a session". He and his friends also took advantage of the nearby Lake District to explore the fells.
Adrian also met his wife, Tina (née Mant) in Bowland. Tina was doing psychology. She is now a speech and language therapist and they have three children.
At the end of his course he was interviewed for maths-based jobs such as actuarial work, but found them 'lacking in heart'. He applied to do a PGCE at St Martins and immediately felt he had found his niche. Since his first teaching job at a high school in Chorley, he has moved to other maths teaching positions around Lancashire, until arriving in his current job in 2007. Today half his time as an assistant head teacher of an Ofsted-rated 'outstanding' school, focuses on staff and professional development, classroom teaching methods and developing links with the community as a Teaching School. He is also trying to develop links between the school and universities including Lancaster.
He feels Lancaster University prepared him for teaching and inspired his love for philosophy, which lives with him daily. He says: "Lancaster got me excited. I have a critical eye on the world and my time there helped me to think about and try to resolve issues."
Many people express surprise that Stacy Westhead has made such a successful people-based career in marketing, given that her degree is in mathematics.
As a recent winner of Media Week's Rising Star award for entrepreneurs under 30, Westhead does not see anything particularly special about inhabiting more than one world at once. Lancaster University helped to prepare her to do so.
She says: "I have a nice balance of logic and being comfortable with numbers, but also the social element of life and marketing. Lancaster University was all about broadening and making me realise that there was more to my world than my small background."
Now as Director of atom42, her day is spent ensuring that clients and her work teams are happy, mentoring and overseeing the company's strategic direction - a total people job - but she would never have predicted this career direction.
The decision of her 18-year-old self to study at Lancaster was made on the basis that she was good at maths, she was keen on a campus university, and the open day presented an idyllic scene to her of students sitting outside the George Fox building in the sunshine, with rabbits jumping around them.
She arrived as a confident fresher from a small local comprehensive in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire and rapidly realised how narrow her horizons were and how sheltered she had been from different cultures and nationalities. She was excited and eager to find out about life.
One aspect of that was addressed in her first week, when she met a second year sociology student, Gareth Westhead in the Grizedale bar at a freshers event. They dated throughout university providing her with stability during her studies. They married in 2012 on the 10th anniversary of their meeting at Lancaster.
"I loved it at Lancaster," she says. "I always felt safe in the college community. My one regret is perhaps that I did not get involved in more student organisations."
Grizedale became the centre of her social life and friendships have continued beyond university, to the extent that a quarter of their wedding guests were from their old college. Her confidence grew to the point that she felt able to go alone to the USA for three months with CCUSA to work on a summer camp after her second year - a choice which would later come to change her career path completely.
Academically she found Lancaster tough. Having breezed through the first year, the second year came as a challenge with many compulsory modules of pure maths. Westhead reckons she would have foundered without the support of Gareth and other friends who were also struggling with the shock of the second year.
Light dawned in the third year, when she took modules in teaching maths with St Martin's College and another in marketing, both of which were demonstrations of maths in action, with words often doing the work of the Greek alphabet. She realised how much she had missed dealing in language, rather than formulae.
The day after she was accepted to train as a Maths Teacher at St Martin's College, an email circular from CCUSA dropped into her inbox, which changed her life. It required former scheme participants to go round UK universities to recruit - a marketing job, but with no experience required. She took it and decided she could always come back to teaching if it did not work out.
When she went down to London to join Gareth nine months later, she now had marketing experience as well as a mathematics degree. She soon gained a job at PHD Media in search marketing, where she gained experience working at a large media agency. The person who appointed her there, Andy Atalla, moved on after a year to set up on his own as atom42. She decided to join him in setting up the company.
Seven years later atom42 is thriving with clients like AOL, National Accident Helpline and Drinkaware. She finds that maths makes total sense in a people business, providing the skills to forecast, plan and report accurately in order to implement creative ideas and concepts for her team and clients.